roads

Detroit Skyline
Shawn Wilson / Wikimedia Commons

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss the latest with the Detroit bankruptcy including political push back from the Koch brothers and money from JPMorgan Chase, and the ongoing debate about Michigan's crummy and crumbling roads.

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.  

Jarrad Henderson / Detroit Free Press

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss the latest with the Detroit bankruptcy, road funding and the state's foreclosure rate.

If you seek a pleasant pothole...

Apr 13, 2014
Mike Perini / Michigan Radio

It's spring, and hope springs eternal. Even the pothole pictured is reflecting on the possibilities. Granted, it's going to cool off in the week to come, with some snow possible on Monday, but we Michiganders are a hopeful bunch, and we won't let that stop us. To paraphrase the state motto, "If You Seek A Pleasant Pothole, Look About You"...or, if you prefer,  "Si Quæris Potholam Amœnam Circumspice!"

Pothole in a road.
Wikimedia Commons

State lawmakers like to say, "There are no Republican roads or Democratic roads" when speaking about Michigan's battered roads and bridges – battered to the point that Republican Gov. Rick Snyder wants more than $1 billion a year in additional road funding.

Chris Gautz, Capitol correspondent for Crain's Detroit Business, has been digging into that statement, and is wondering if it's true, particularly when it comes to the funding of road repairs. 

Listen to the full interview above. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says after nine years of deep budget cuts, the capitol city finally is entering a new fiscal year with a balanced budget.

Bernero unveiled his proposed city budget for next year last night.    

Bernero credits an uptick in property and city income tax revenues for the city’s improved budget picture.  

During the last nine years, the city of Lansing has trimmed its workforce by more than 30% and won contract concessions from its unions.

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.

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

State lawmakers will roll out a deal this afternoon on a spending package to fix Michigan’s pothole-filled roads.

The supplement funding bill is expected to include $200 million for local road agencies. Brutal winter weather has drained county and city road budgets.

State House Speaker Jase Bolger declined to give specifics about the compromise road bill this morning, except to say it will address the state’s immediate road problems.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

As we gingerly pick our way through Michigan's pothole-ridden and crumbling roads, state lawmakers are hashing out just how much money to spend on fixing the state's roads and highways.

Chris Gautz, the Capitol correspondent for Crain's Detroit Business, gave us an update.

*Listen to our interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

County road commissioners meeting in Lansing today heard from a Pennsylvania transportation official on how Michigan can spend more money on its crumbling roads.

Bradley Mallory is the executive deputy secretary of Pennsylvania’s transportation department.

His state recently passed a $2.3 billion road spending plan. The plan includes a higher gas tax and other fees.

Mallory says like Michigan, Pennsylvania lawmakers know they have to do something to fix their roads.

Pothole in a road.
Wikimedia Commons

A monster pothole season is upon us – and state lawmakers say they want to help.

A state Senate panel on Tuesday added $100 million for road repairs and maintenance to a mid-year budget bill to help communities fix potholes and plow roads.

Lawmakers say local governments need the help to offset the costs of constant snow removal and efforts to fix potholes caused by the nasty winter weather.

Potholes
Peter Ito / flickr

As the winter of 2013-2014 drags on, we're really seeing what it's done to our roads.

Patching crews try in vain to keep up with a bumper crop of potholes. More and more of us are losing tires, blowing the suspension as we bang into one of those gaping potholes.

And keep in mind, Michigan's roads were crumbling before this winter.

With more winter to go, we wondered where our roads stand and what needs to happen in Lansing to do what it takes to repair and maintain the roads.

Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle knows all too well what this winter has done to the pavement, and he joined us today. 

Listen to the full interview above.

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.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

More Michiganders signing up for health care than expected

"About 112,000 Michigan residents chose a private insurance plan under the federal health care law through January, outpacing what was projected in a government memo last summer," the Associated Press reports.

Juvenile lifer sentencing rules head to the governor's desk

"Michigan lawmakers have given final approval to new sentencing rules after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down mandatory life imprisonment for juveniles. The bills now head to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature. The legislation applies to future cases and not retroactively to more than 350 Michigan inmates under 18 when they committed crimes," the Associated Press reports.

Lowest amount of money spent on roads in the U.S.: Michigan

"Michigan spends less money per capita on our roads and bridges than any other state in the nation. We spent just $154 dollars per person, according to the 2010 Census," Michigan Radio reports.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero used his State of the City speech Thursday to make a pitch for state funding to repair local roads.

Mayor Virg Bernero says the city of Lansing plans to spend three million dollars this year to repair pot hole covered roads in the capitol city. 

But the mayor says the city would have to spend five times that much each year for a decade to fix all of Lansing’s road problems.

In his speech, Bernero called on state lawmakers to use part of the state’s billion dollar budget surplus to help repair local roads across Michigan.

Pothole in a road.
Wikimedia Commons

Michigan’s top transportation official is blasting state lawmakers for all but giving up on passing a long-term road funding fix this year.

Gov. Rick Snyder wants the Legislature to boost funding for roads and infrastructure by more than $1 billion a year. But lawmakers say Michigan voters are not ready to support raising taxes or fees to pay for it. Some say the roads may have to get worse before they can get better.

I have to wonder sometimes how our elected leaders in the Legislature sleep. They spend vast amounts of money getting elected to jobs, the whole purpose of which is to serve the citizens. Then they don’t do that –selling out to special interests, or pandering shamelessly to voters – so they can cling to power for another couple years.

If they were in Congress, I still wouldn’t approve, though it would be easier to understand. Congressmen, after all, can stay in office until they are legally dead, accumulating power and seniority. But if you are a member of the Michigan House of Representatives, you can serve six years maximum, for life. State senators can serve a maximum of eight years.

Now – if you are going to be gone anyway soon, why not do the right thing while you are there? Sadly, that isn’t the way most legislators seem to think. I’ll give you one huge example:

Forget anything morally controversial, like abortion insurance or wolf hunting. Forget anything where there is a legitimate public policy debate, like what to do about failing schools. Instead, let’s talk about the most obvious example: Our roads.

WFIU Public Radio / Creative Commons

Voters in Grand Rapids could get a chance to vote on an income tax extension this year. The city wants to extend a temporary income tax hike to maintain roads and sidewalks.

Grand Rapids voters approved the temporary income tax hike in 2010. It’s paid for a number of projects that will lower the overall cost of running city government. That increase will expire in 2015.

Michigan's Capitol.
Graham Davis / flickr

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

The legislature has wrapped up session for the year. And, after the holidays we’re entering an election year. Let's find out, besides the gubernatorial election, what other major elections should we be watching next year, and what might the legislature accomplish in 2014?

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss the state of child well-being in Michigan, and look ahead to Governor Rick Snyder's energy plan he'll announce Thursday. They also take a look at legislation likely to be taken up in early 2014.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Roads will be a priority in 2014, lawmakers say

"State legislative leaders say boosting funding for roads will top their priority list in 2014. Governor Rick Snyder has been urging lawmakers to increase road and infrastructure spending by more than a billion dollars," Jake Neher reports.

Teams start counting vacant buildings to help fight blight in Detroit

"A large-scale effort to count Detroit’s blighted and vacant buildings starts in earnest today. Seventy five teams of surveyors will assess and map more than 350,000 parcels of land across the city," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Manufacturing announcement expected in Flint

"Top officials with General Motors, the UAW and Michigan government will be in Flint today for what’s being called a “significant manufacturing” announcement. GM spokesmen are not saying what the announcement at the Flint Assembly Plant will be," Steve Carmody reports.

Earlier this week I had a meeting in Ann Arbor and then went to Detroit. When I swung off the freeway onto a surface street I hit a pothole I couldn’t see so hard I was convinced I’d lose a tire.

I was lucky. Everything seems fine. But I drive a lot, and have lost two tires in similar episodes in recent years.

We need to fix our roads. Figuring out how to do so is the responsibility of our lawmakers. But they won’t do it. Which means  we are all going to pay more and more to fix damage to our cars. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Delaying Medicaid expansion in Michigan is having another side-effect besides forcing low-income adults to wait three months longer for health insurance under the federal health overhaul.

It also means there could be $73 million less for deteriorating roads at a time lawmakers are funneling more money there in part to avoid raising gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There’s a new idea floating around the state Capitol about how to boost funding for roads. Supporters call the plan “pot for potholes.”

Lawmakers like state Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) would like to see the state legalize and tax marijuana and use that money to pay for road repairs.

“You can tax the heck out of marijuana,” Callton says, “put it into a separate fund for Michigan roads - because it doesn’t seem like that money is going to come from anywhere else at this point in time - and it’s a cute name, ‘pot for potholes.’”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan has at least 28 bridges that are classified as needing close observation and future upgrades.

The Associated Press analyzed data on bridges nationwide. At least 28 in Michigan are considered "structurally deficient" and "fracture critical," key terms bridge inspectors use.

Officials say that doesn't mean the bridges are unsafe for travel. If so, they'd be closed.

This week in review, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the Medicaid expansion and Kerry Bentivolio's primary challenger.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Governor Snyder says some Medicaid funding could go toward roads

"Governor Rick Snyder says extending Medicaid to thousands of working poor people will save Michigan taxpayers money. He wants to use part of the money to pay for the program in future years when the federal government’s share declines slightly. But he says there should be more than enough to also use some of the money for other things – such as roads and transportation," Rick Pluta reports.

Housing project once home to Diana Ross and Joe Louis torn down in Detroit

"Portions of Detroit’s historic Brewster-Douglass housing projects met the wrecking ball Wednesday. The massive complex where Diana Ross and Joe Louis grew up had become a magnet for blight and crime," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Rockfors residents urged to boil water to avoid E. coli

"Tests have revealed E. coli in the water system that serves Rockford, a city north of Grand Rapids. Health officials advised residents to use bottled water Wednesday or boil tap water before using it for drinking, brushing teeth or preparing food," the Associated Press reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says extending Medicaid to more working poor people will save the state a lot of money – maybe $130 million next year. That begs the question of what to do with the budget windfall.

   The Snyder administration says the Medicaid expansion to 320,000 working poor people will help reduce uncompensated hospital care and other things that drive up the cost of health care. But the state should also see direct savings by shifting costs like prisoner mental health services to the Medicaid program.

Pothole in a road.
Wikimedia Commons

Each week we take a look at Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, columnist for MLIVE.com.

Governor Snyder has been calling for increased funding for Michigan roads to the tune of $1.2 billion a year. This is one of the items he has not gotten a lot of traction on so far from lawmakers on either side of the political aisle.

According to Sikkema, the last time Michigan increased fees and a tax for transportation funding was back in 1997.

"The reason we keep going back to this sales tax issue is because Michigan is relatively unique. It has a sales tax on top of its state and federal gas tax and that sales tax doesn't go to roads it goes to schools and revenue sharing. There are only about three or four states in the country where all the taxes at the pump don't go to roads. Michigan is one of them," he said.

Are better roads, better for business?

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