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Who’s responsible for which roads in Michigan?

Nov 7, 2017

Something Michiganders talk about all the time? Roads. But do you know who’s in charge of our roads, or who owns them? Listener Phil Arbour was thinking along those lines.

He sent this question to our MI Curious team:

“How is road ownership broken down in Michigan?"

Arbour said he wanted to know how the roads are divvied up by federal, state, county, township, and village.

Stateside brought in Aarne Frobom with the Michigan Department of Transportation to explain.

Read highlights below, or hear the full answer above.

We have more than 122,000 route miles of roads in our state. Who controls what?

“There’s basically three kinds of roads in Michigan. To try to keep it as simple as we can, there’s state highways, county roads, and city and village streets.”

“The state’s share of that is the most heavily used 9,600 miles. Those are the state highways that have route numbers beginning with M or US or I. And then after that there’s county and city local roads.”

“Once you get out of the cities and villages, everything that is not a state highway is a county road. The county road system is the largest in terms of route miles, and then within Michigan’s 533 cities and villages, there’s a little over 30,000 miles of city streets.”

“There’s three classes of agencies and the responsibility for the road system is divided up among all of those agencies, and is pretty finely divided. There’s [sic] 83 counties and 533 cities and villages, plus the Michigan Department of Transportation that’s in charge of the state highways. So that’s a total of 617 different road agencies in Michigan.”

But who actually owns the roads, according to Frobom?

“Of course, when you ask the question, ‘Who owns the system?’ it’s important to keep in mind that the true owners of the system are the highway users who actually pay into it. If you’re driving a car in Michigan and have license plates and pay the fuel tax, you should think of yourself as an owner of the road system.”

Listen above for the full answer to listener Phil Arbour’s question. Send us your own question below.

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