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MDOT

A report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group cites a plan to widen I-94 through the heart of Detroit as one of 11 “highway boondoggles” nationwide.

The planned “mega-project” will add a lane in either direction from midtown Detroit through the city’s east side. It will also connect service drives, widen shoulders and rebuild some bridges along that stretch of the highway.

MDOT / via Facebook

Metro Detroit got hit with a record-breaking burst of rain Monday night—up to six inches in some spots.

The deluge left highways flooded, motorists stranded and thousands of basements swamped.

As the waters receded, it was time to clean up and assess the damage. Here’s a report from one of the hardest-hit areas: southeast Oakland County.

The state's busiest interchange, underwater

The I-75/696 interchange is the right at the heart of Metro Detroit’s freeway system—the busiest interchange in the state.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Transportation officials in Michigan are hearing from their federal counterparts this week about a funding shortage that may affect next year’s orange barrel season.

The problem is fuel efficient cars, at least partially. More fuel efficient cars mean less gas revenue flowing into the Federal Highway Trust Fund.  The federal gas tax rate has remained at the same level for two decades.  

net_efekt / Flickr

Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, says the harsh winter will make the pothole situation in Michigan this spring the worst we’ve seen in our lifetime. He testified this week before the state House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation.

Joining us to talk roads are Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

More money for Michigan transportation projects?
user theed17 / wikimedia commons

The Michigan Department of Transportation is asking businesses whether they’re interested in partnering with the state for certain projects. That could include taking over the building, operating, or financing of infrastructure projects from the state.

Joe Pavona is Governor Rick Snyder’s special advisor on public-private partnerships.

“I think that this is the direction of the future, and I think is consistent with providing improved customer service and value for Michigan,” he says.

Lawmakers in Lansing are debating how to boost transportation spending by more than a billion dollars a year. Pavona says including private businesses in transportation projects could save the state money and time.

But Michigan’s largest state employees union doesn’t like the idea. Ray Holman is with UAW Local 6000.

“You’re talking about services and responsibilities that are vital. And you’re talking about issues of safety, of course. And we believe that certain things are best handled by the state workforce,” he says.

Right now, MDOT is exploring public-private partnerships involving bridge work, freeway lighting, and two rest areas in Northern Michigan.

It says it’s too early to say whether the partnerships would shift public sector jobs to the private sector.

Michigan Flyer

A private bus service will get a federal grant, despite the objections of Lansing’s Capitol Region International Airport.

The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission last night approved a $595,000 federal grant to the Michigan Flyer. The Flyer currently operates 8 daily round trips from Lansing to Ann Arbor to Metro Airport. The grant will allow its buses to run four more round trips each day.   

Airport officials fear the added bus service will siphon off potential air passengers from Lansing.

Michigan Flyer facebook page

A federal grant to expand bus service between Lansing and Detroit Metro Airport is stalled.



The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission split nine to nine on authorizing a $600,000 grant to help the Michigan Flyer expand its daily trips from eight to twelve.    The commissioner with the potential tie-breaking vote did not attend Wednesday night’s meeting.


A truck and other traffic crossing the Ambassador Bridge.
Casino Jones / Flickr | Creative Commons

The Michigan Department of Transportation may remove a ban which prohibits truckers from carrying hazardous materials across the Ambassador Bridge.

Rob Morosi, an MDOT spokesman, says most of the items currently considered hazardous are just normal household materials.

If you’ve driven on any Metro Detroit’s major highways recently, you may have spent some time in the dark.

That’s because the region’s highways have been plagued by some recurring power outages.

The outages have hit most major highways in and around the city, especially portions of I-94 and I-96.

In some cases, whole stretches of highway have repeatedly gone completely dark.

Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi said MDOT has removed some streetlights because they were old and unsound, and lost others to accidents.

But Morosi says the bigger issue is thieves who target transformer cabinets beside the highways, particularly for their copper wire--which can be sold for scrap.

“And we’re seeing an increase in copper theft in and around the metro Detroit area, and most of these lighting outages can be attributed to that theft,” Morosi said.

Morosi says MDOT is trying to fix the problems, but funding is tight and repairs are expensive.

“At this point in time, funding is an issue for this department,” Morosi said. “Infrastructure investment is obviously something we’re keeping a close eye on, and we’re hoping something can be done in Lansing.”

MDOT officials also hope proposed legislation to crack down on scrapyards will help out.

Morosi says it’s difficult to put a price tag on fixing the problem because “it’s such a moving target.”

Nearly all major freeways have been affected, and Morosi estimates as many as 20 percent of the freeway lights around Metro Detroit aren’t working for one reason or another.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A special task force starts work this week to try to come up with a plan to better spend state tax dollars to fix Michigan’s roads.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is spending about a billion dollars building and repairing the state’s roads this year.

But to keep pace with what’s needed to just maintain the state’s infrastructure, its estimated Michigan would need to spend $1.4 billion.

State Senator Roger Kahn wonders if that money is being spent efficiently enough.

Construction on the Gateway Project started in 2004. The $258 million construction project was supposed to be finished years ago, but a partnership between the Ambassador Bridge owners and the Michigan Department of Transportation broke down. A court determined the owners were not holding up their end of the bargain, and pulled them off the project. Today, another milestone passes in the saga as the Gateway Project opens.

Michigan Department of Transportation / via facebook

State officials celebrated a major milestone toward finishing the long-delayed Gateway Project Tuesday.

They opened a road that will route trucks directly to the Ambassador Bridge from surrounding highways.

The Gateway Project is meant to better connect the bridge and highways. It’s also supposed to keep heavy truck traffic out of southwest Detroit neighborhoods.

(photo by Jason Roland) / fleetgod-snowice.blogspot.com

Michigan is getting its first significant snowfall of the year this evening. If you live in southwest Michigan, you may notice the snowplow in front of you is moving slower than you’re used to.  

When a snow plow is dumping salt on icy roads, state Transportation officials refer to it as "Bounce & Scatter".   

As the salt hits the road, faster truck speeds mean more salt tends to bounce and scatter, much of it landing off the road. 

MDOT spokesman Nick Schirripa says to reduce the scatter salt trucks in nine southwest counties will slow from 35 to 25 miles per hour this winter. The hope is slower speed will save money by using less salt.  

But Schirripa admits the slower speeds could put the trucks at greater risk of being rear-ended by inattentive motorists.   

“If we find out after a season, or a few weeks of it, the crash rate is simply too high, that safety is too much of a factor, the (pilot) program may in fact be dropped," says Schirripa.  

If the slower salt truck pilot program is successful, it may eventually expand to the rest of the state.

Ifmuth / Creative Commons

A new study shows the conditions of Michigan’s roads will continue to decline unless the state can come up with a lot more money to maintain them. More than a third of Michigan’s roads are in poor condition.

The study was released this week by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers. It shows the state needs $1.4 billion more each year for at least 85-percent of roadways to be in good or fair condition.

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge say a disputed construction project will get done by a court-imposed January 2012 deadline.

The Detroit International Bridge Company and the Michigan Department of Transportation have been in court for two years over the Gateway Project, a disputed construction project meant to better connect the bridge with surrounding highways

Making Michigan’s roads better is the job of a state appointed committee that holds its first meeting this week.  The legislature created the Complete Streets Advisory Council last year.  

A new report paints a dim picture of the bridges that many Michigan motorists use every day.

The Michigan Department of Transportation says one in four of Michigan’s 44 hundred bridges are either "structurally deficient" or "functionally obsolete"

Department spokesman Bill Schreck says despite millions of federal stimulus dollars spent in the past year on road improvements in Michigan problem bridges are still in need of repair.