Q: Does the Road Commission plan for future projects?
A: The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) often hears comments to the effect that the reason we have all these road congestion problems is because of "poor planning." Usually those comments are made by people who are not familiar with the kind or amount of planning that actually occurs. Road agencies have been working with communities for decades to identify future road needs. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has a five-year construction program detailing what will be built around the state over the next five years to address identified and projected road needs. While RCOC only prepares a three-year construction program, it maintains and periodically updates a Master Right of Way Plan that has been adopted by both the Road Commission and local communities. Using projected land uses and travel patterns, RCOC and local communities reach an agreement as to the type of road (number of lanes) that will eventually be needed and thus the width of the right of way needed to build that road. Once adopted, the communities, in reviewing site plans for development, require the buildings to be set back a specified distance from the right of way line identified in the Master Right of Way Plan. Thus, when road widening eventually does occur, there are no new buildings in the way that must be purchased and torn down. Communities sometimes even get developers to dedicate the needed right of way so that it would not have to be purchased later on when road widening is proposed. The preparation of such a plan and the pursuant actions by the communities are examples of GOOD planning. This type of planning has taken place at RCOC for decades. Through a series of meetings with communities, the right of way plan is updated on a regular basis. It is no small task to go out and meet with the communities in this county and reach an agreement as to what a particular road should look like some time in the future. The majority of the major county roads in Oakland County are designated as collector roads with 86 feet of right of way for no more than a two-lane road or thoroughfares with 120 feet of right of way that eventually could accommodate a five-lane road. There are also some roads designated for enough right of way to accommodate a boulevard (150 feet, which could accommodate a four-lane boulevard) and a few with more than 200-foot rights of way. The problem is not planning. The problem is funding. Current road funds go for maintaining the existing system. Additional funds are needed to make significant improvements to the system. Unfortunately, none of the new revenue generated by development goes to road agencies. Those new revenues, namely property taxes, go to the schools, cities, villages or townships, county general government, etc., but not to MDOT or the Road Commission. Even the best laid plans aren't worth much if the money is not there to carry them out.
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