michigan roads

You’ve probably heard that the state Senate passed a bill last week that would finally raise some significant money to fix Michigan’s terrible roads. Most of us who ever have to leave the house and drive were happy about this.

For years, the roads have gotten worse, and our lawmakers have done virtually nothing about them.

However, there are a number of important things to know about this bill and this issue. First of all, this is not a done deal. The state House of Representatives won’t even take this up until next month. While there is a lot of pressure to do something about the roads, there is no guarantee they will pass the Senate bill in its present form – or indeed, pass any bill at all.

But here’s something else you may not have read elsewhere. The bill passed by the Senate is really a pretty lousy way of coming up with money for road repair. The formula it uses is very hard to understand, and provides no guaranteed amount.

What Gov. Rick Snyder proposed, and what usually happens when more road repair money is needed, is that lawmakers raise the gas tax by a certain number of cents on the gallon. Driving habits vary, but not by very much.

Transportation experts can calculate pretty closely how much new revenue, say, a 10-cent-a-gallon increase would bring. But that’s not what the Senate is proposing.

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This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss a move to fix the state’s roads, the most recent ruling involving same-sex laws, and a new standardized test for Michigan’s public schools.


Today on Stateside

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"If you want a job done right, do it yourself!"

That old adage seems to be behind the appearance of dedicated road millages on a number of ballots last week around the state. Eric Lupher is president of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

Lupher says many local communities have decided that if money isn’t coming from higher government, it will have to come from local taxpayers.

Marijuana plant.
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This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss whether the legislature will be able to come up with a plan to fix Michigan's roads before the end of the year, a challenge to a Grand Rapids law decriminalizing marijuana, and what’s next on Detroit’s road to recovery.


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This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss Michigan’s anti-gay marriage law being upheld, the Detroit bankruptcy trial ruling, and what to expect during this term’s lame-duck session.


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We've heard plenty during this campaign season about school funding, pension taxes, and outside money, but the Michigan Chamber of Commerce would like there to be more focus on the state of our roads

Rich Studley is the executive director of the Chamber. He says there are just a few legislative sessions after the election and before the end of the year, so there’s not much time to pass legislation to fix the roads.

For more than a century now, Detroit has been the Motor City: Home of the auto industry; the place that put the world on wheels.

You know that. You also probably know that as a result, Detroit utterly failed to build any kind of decent mass transit.

Other, that is, than a system of badly serviced city buses that don’t even coordinate with the suburban ones. The city is paying for that now, as thousands of adults who lack cars have no easy way to get to jobs in the suburbs. Belatedly, there are efforts to get a rapid transit bus system. There’s also the M1 light-rail project in the city, but these are partial solutions at best.

Researchers are going to find out how well rubberized asphalt will resist potholes.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A group of researchers at Michigan Technological University is conducting tests to find out if traditional asphalt mixed with rubber from scrap tires could make better roads in Michigan.

The research, led by civil and environmental engineering department chair David Hand, has been granted $1.2 million from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Professor Zhanping You has been studying the technology of rubberized asphalt for eight years. He says rubber-added asphalt can make roads more durable and make life easier for drivers.

Almost two years ago, I spoke to a group called CRAM, the County Road Association of Michigan. These are the folks who maintain Michigan’s streets and highways, both urban and rural.

I found these folks mainly had frustrating professional lives, trying to do too much with too few resources and being blamed for problems they weren’t being given enough money to fix.

Yesterday, however, some pundits may have been startled when their political action group, RUSH-PAC, announced it was endorsing Gov. Rick Snyder for re-election. That may surprise some because though the governor did announce a plan to raise revenue for the roads, he’s failed to get it through the Legislature.

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.

96fix/Facebook

I-96 will open tomorrow (Monday, September 22), more than two weeks ahead of schedule.  The stretch was closed between Telegraph and Newburgh Roads in Livonia. The announcement was made today as Governor Rick Snyder and others gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and walk on the freeway. I-96 was closed in April to allow crews to reconstruct the 7-mile stretch. Crews rebuilt 56 miles of freeway, repaired 37 bridges, and reconstructed 26 ramps. The project area runs through Redford Township and Livonia. 

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
senate.michigan.gov

The state Legislature is scheduled to meet about 20 more days between now and the end of the year.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he has two top priorities he’d like to accomplish before then. The first is to find a way to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads. The second is to ease term limits on Michigan lawmakers.

Richardville says there’s too little experience in the Legislature, thanks to current limits.

“People in general say, ‘I like the idea of term limits.’ But I don’t think they’d like it to be as restrictive as they are. If they knew how quickly and how much turnover there was here, I think they would rethink it,” said Richardville.

Richardville says he’s considering a plan that would allow term-limited lawmakers to collect a certain number of petition signatures allowing them to run again. He did not say exactly how long lawmakers should be allowed to serve.

Normally journalists never say how they vote, but I am about to violate that rule. Eight years ago, I voted to re-elect Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. I thought she was doing a good job; I still think she was less partisan and more practical than others who have held that post.

Yet I have a hard time recognizing that official in the Terri Lynn Land now running for the U.S. Senate. And yesterday, she unveiled an idea that may be one of the worst I’ve ever heard. If you ever leave your house, you know many Michigan roads are in bad shape. Gov. Rick Snyder does.

He’s been trying to get lawmakers to come up with $1.2 billion a year in new money to restore our crumbling roads and bridges. Actually, experts with the Michigan Department of Transportation, now say more like $2 billion a year is needed. The governor suggested getting this from a combination of increased registration fees and raising the state gas tax.

  This story was updated at 11:04 am (8/13/14)

As you probably know, the Michigan Legislature has been unwilling to come up with the money to fix our roads.

Michigan’s roads are in bad shape, and some in metro Detroit are going to be in worse shape after Monday night’s horrendous flooding.

That devastation is bound to raise new questions about our aging and inadequate storm drain systems, but don’t look for your lawmakers to do anything about that, either.

That’s because fixing things costs money, and too many of our lawmakers are stubbornly opposed to raising revenue for ideological reasons, or just plain lack the courage to raise taxes.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Michigan will receive is $115 million in special state funding this year for 124 specific road projects in certain districts.  This includes 38 projects in the metro Detroit region.

Crain’s Business Reporter Chris Gautz said most of the money will go to districts that are represented by Republicans, and about $41 million went to some districts represented by Democrats.

“For somebody in another part of the state that isn’t getting any money -- maybe if they are represented completely by Democrats -- they’re not going to see anything and they are wondering why their roads aren’t as important,” Gautz said.

Click here for a full list of the projects.

Guatz said there will also be about $1.5 million dollars for the Secretary of State’s office to help combat insurance fraud. 

*Listen to full interview above. 

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The living conditions in Michigan are crumbling and the residents aren't happy about it.

That's according to a report by the Michigan Economic Center, called The Michigan Dream at Risk.

It says that over the past 10 years, Michigan's legislators have cut support to the things Michigan citizens love most.

Because of this, Michigan's roads, outdoors, and schools are suffering.

The report suggests more than 60% of those polled favor funding for public investments.

John Austin is the Director of MEC.

Our Legislature’s refusal to do what’s needed to fix the roads made me remember a brilliant political move many years ago.

President Harry Truman was running for re-election, and his chances didn’t look good.

He was a Democrat, and had a Republican Congress that didn’t want to cooperate on anything he wanted. So he called them back for a special session during the campaign. He challenged Congress to pass laws the nation needed.

OK, let’s say I asked you two months ago which of these things our conservative Republican lawmakers would be most likely to do:

1.  Approve using state money to help beef up Detroit’s pension finds and vote to raise the minimum wage by almost $2 an hour over the next few years.

2. Or, agree to fix our totally awful roads.

My guess is you would have thought fixing the roads most likely, and boosting the minimum wage an impossible pipe dream. Well, guess what, raising the minimum wage was the first thing they did, followed by helping Detroit.

But they still won’t fix our horrible roads, even though that’s what voters want. What’s worse is that our bizarre Legislature seems to be drifting further away from dealing with the problem.

Democrats, by the way, control nothing. Their main role is to break ties between the different factions of Republicans.

Here’s what’s happening: Two Republicans are showing principled leadership.

First of all, Gov. Rick Snyder, who for years has called on lawmakers to do the right thing and come up with the money needed to fix our roads. Two years ago, he said that would cost at least $1.2 billion a year in new revenue for the next 10 years. Lawmakers did nothing. But after last winter, voters are up in arms. They want the roads, fixed, period, and they have a new champion: Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville of Monroe. He hasn’t always been a leader here.

A new study suggests that Detroit is the most dangerous city in the Midwest for pedestrians.

The study comes from the National Complete Streets Coalition, a non-profit that advocates modifying streetscapes to accommodate more than cars.

It calculated a “Pedestrian Danger Index” that ranked Detroit the 11th most-dangerous metro area in the country—and the most dangerous outside the South.

I think the low point in my faith in democracy came late this winter, soon after I had lost one tire to a pothole. I got home after nearly losing another on the lunar surface of a suburban Detroit mile road, just in time to hear a state senator claiming we needed another tax cut.

Well, I thought, I am now living in a Third World country. But guess what? That senator heard from his constituents, big-time. Before long, he was retreating from his tax-cut talk, legislative tail between his legs. Why?

To quote the leader of his caucus, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville R- Monroe, “I’ve heard the message loud and clear that the roads are messed up, and I think the most common phrase I’m hearing from back home is 'just fix the damn roads.'"

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A proposal to greatly increase Michigan’s gas tax goes before a state Senate committee tomorrow.

The proposal has already cleared the state House. Among other things, it calls for taxing fuel based on price, instead of volume. It would generate about $500 million in new tax revenue. That's about a third of what Gov. Rick Snyder and others say is needed to fix the roads.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan roads are expected to be crowded later this week as people take advantage of the first big summer holiday weekend.

AAA predicts 1.1 million Michiganders will travel during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. That’s a slight increase over Memorial Day weekend 2013.

AAA says most people will travel by car, encouraged by slipping gasoline prices, though they can expect to pay more for hotel rooms and rental cars.

Not everyone is traveling by car or truck.

If by any chance you’ve left your house anytime in, oh, say, the last year, you may have noticed that our roads are in terrible shape. Gov. Rick Snyder knows this. Two years ago, he asked the Legislature for $1.2 billion a year for a decade in new money to fix the roads. If you think that’s a lot, you’re right.

But it is less than studies show our horrible roads are costing us every year in the increased cost of fuel and car repairs, as well as  the incalculable cost of businesses that won’t expand in or move to Michigan because our infrastructure is in such lousy shape.

The governor hasn’t always been a statesman, nor above pandering to the far right. But he is a businessman, and devoted to economic expansion. He knows you need decent roads to attract business, especially the kind that produce high-tech, high-paying jobs.

House Republicans have come up with an annual $500 million solution to fixing Michigan's horrible damaged roads. Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press joins us to discuss the proposition. 

A Clinton Township man was senselessly beaten and robbed on Detroit's east side after stopping to help a 10-year-old boy who stepped into oncoming traffic. Steve Utash is now in a medically induced coma. Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press joins us to try and understand this crime. 

A neighborhood church in Metro Detroit has closed its doors about 91 years. St. Henry's parish numbers have fallen so low that the church is closing. Stateside's Kyle Norris grew up attending the church, and she joins us today to share her story.

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As the snow and ice have melted, Michigan has come up with a bumper crop of potholes and crumbling roads – roads that were already badly in need of repair. And that has turned everyone's attention to fixing the roads and how to pay for it. 

State House Republicans are proposing an annual $500 million solution. 

Here to tell us more about that is Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau.

Listen to the full interview above. 

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The organization championing the interests of Michigan’s local governments is withholding judgment on a proposal to fix the state’s roads.

Officials with the Michigan Municipal League say they’re cautiously hopeful about the plan Republican State House leader Jase Bolger unveiled last week.

Recently I criticized the Legislature and State Senator Jack Brandenberg for wanting to roll back state income taxes. He has a bill to cut the rate from 4.25% to 3.9% over three years.

For an average taxpayer, that would mean a tax cut of less than a hundred bucks a year. But it would leave the state with nearly a billion dollars a year less, when it already doesn’t have enough money to maintain the roads or provide other services.

After this bill sailed through the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month, I said I thought it was irresponsible election year pandering.

Later, Sen. Brandenberg called me.

He was warm, earnest, had a sense of humor, and said I had gotten it wrong. He wasn’t pandering in the least, he told me; this is what he genuinely believed. He said this stemmed from an agreement to roll back taxes going back to when Jennifer Granholm was governor.

I thought his calling me took class, and it was clear he really does believe in this. Brandenberg has no need to pander; he is certain to be reelected this fall to a safe Republican seat.

Well, yesterday the legislature approved a budget supplemental bill that includes more than two hundred million dollars in new money to fix the roads, and the politicians are congratulating themselves.

Governor Snyder issued a press release praising this, and congratulating the legislature on “working together” and creating the “positive relationship” needed to pass this bill.

Now if you think about it, what he said sounds pretty bizarre. Working together? Positive relationship? That’s the kind of language you use when two nations sign a trade agreement.

These are the two houses in our state’s legislature. Their job is to work together for our good. And you’d think a “positive relationship” should be a piece of cake, since they are both controlled by Republicans. But in fact, there isn’t all that much positive in this bill. The road funding, while necessary, doesn’t address the major problem, and it isn’t clear whether this money will be allocated fairly.

Despite appearances, those who make our laws sometimes do listen to those who elect them. Here’s one example happening right now. Anyone who drives knows that our roads are in terrible shape.

Nobody remembers them ever being this bad, especially in major urban areas. But the Legislature has stubbornly ignored appeals from Gov. Rick Snyder to fix them.

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