Are roads in Ohio better than roads in Michigan? Here's how they differ

Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 06:57:15-04

(WXYZ) — This spring, Michigan drivers have been dealing with nasty potholes, on top of mounting construction projects to fix the aging infrastructure.

It's also not hard to see a difference when you cross the border from Michigan into Ohio.

Both Denis Meharg and Coty Hurd live in Monroe, close to the Toledo, Ohio border.

"I think the city roads are about the same but as far as highway driving, Michigan to Ohio, it is awful,” Denis said.

"I think they are complete garbage compared to Ohio roads. As soon as you get into Ohio you can instantly tell the difference,” City Meharg added.

7 Action Traffic Anchor Ali Hoxie took a trip to Toledo to see what drivers are experiencing. Driving along both I-75 and US-23. She said you could hear and feel a difference.

The Michigan Department of Transportation confirmed to 7 Action News that there is a difference.

"When people complain about rough or noisy roads or pothole roads, what they are reacting to in some cases is the difference between concrete roads and asphalt roads,” Aarne Frobom said. He's a senior policy analyst with the Michigan Department of Transportation.

He says the freeways in Michigan were built back in the 1950s using concrete to accommodate truck traffic.

“Michigan tended to avoid asphalt pavement because it flows out from under the truck tires," Frobom said. "It does what you call rutting, and retains water in rainstorms and can turn icy if it freezes."

A representative from the Ohio Department of Transportation declined an on-camera interview but did tell 7 Action News some of Toledo’s freeways have asphalt on them.

Frobom says the concrete tends to make more noise than asphalt for drivers.

“Is one of Michigan’s goals to switch to more of that asphalt?” Hoxie asked.

“No, we don’t favor one pavement design over another," Frobom responded.

Frobom says the state favors what is going to cost MDOT less in maintenance over time.

Projects undergo a “life-cycle cost analysis” to figure out what materials should be used.

Aside from the differences in how the roads are built, there is also a difference in how Michigan and Ohio fund their roads. One example is the gas taxes in each state.

There is a 38.5-cent gas tax in Ohio, compared to Michigan’s 27-cent gas tax. Michigan does have a sales tax on gas of 6%, but the majority of that 6% goes toward schools, with a little under 5% going towards the roads.

"I think the biggest difference between Ohio and Michigan is they have funded their roads a lot better over the past 20 years,” said Ron Brenke.

Brenke is the executive director for the American Society of Civil Engineers, and a civil engineer himself.

He says for years now, Michigan has underfunded our roads, compared to how much money goes into the roads in Ohio.

He says even with that knowledge, it is hard to compare the two systems.

"Sure, you can compare them, but they are really two very different animals. The network that Ohio has is a lot larger than Michigan. They have more lane miles of road, they have more bridges, they also have something we don't, and that is toll roads,” said Brenke.

The toll money collected at the Ohio Turnpike goes directly back into the turnpike. A study has been underway in Michigan looking at the potential benefits of tolling. The time period for that study was recently extended.

This year MDOT will be working on I-75 between Erie Road and Otter Creek costing $82 million.