roads

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan in for snow, sleet and rain today

"Snow, sleet and freezing rain are expected across the region today as part of a strong winter storm bearing down on the nation's midsection. It's expected to fall this afternoon and evening, and into tomorrow. More than 6 inches could fall in some places, including southeast Michigan. West Michigan could get 2 to 6 inches," the Associated Press reports.

Lawmakers talk roads funding

"State business leaders say Michigan lawmakers need to boost funding for roads now. The group says the cost of fixing roads only gets higher as time passes and roads get worse. The group says lawmakers should raise the state’s gas tax and vehicle registration fees to boost road funding," Jake Neher reports.

Mike Duggan to announce run for Detroit mayor

The former Detroit Medical Center CEO, Mike Duggan is announcing his run for Detroit mayor today. As the Detroit News reports,

"In an interview Monday, [Duggan] said his candidacy will be defined by the critical need for a strategy to fight violent crime and the case to limit (if not prevent) the tenure of an emergency manager in a long overdue turnaround of the city."

Some people are saying Michigan should have a part-time instead of a full-time legislature. I’ve always been against this. But from time to time, I can sympathize with the notion that maybe our lawmakers should only work part time so they can buckle down to business and get the important things done.

Yesterday provided a perfect example. Our roads are falling apart. Every day we put off fixing them means it will cost that much more in the long run. Every day we put off fixing them is another day that Michigan becomes less competitive.

The house I live in is 84 years old. Two winters ago, an ancient sewer pipe broke under our basement. This meant a mess and fairly expensive work. Was that convenient? No. Could we have spent that money in ways that would have been a lot more fun? Absolutely. But building and using an outhouse in the middle of a Michigan winter didn’t seem an appealing alternative.

Which brings us to the governor’s transportation budget. He wants to increase the gas tax by 14 cents a gallon and increase car and light truck annual registration fees by 60 percent, which sounds pretty steep. They say that will cost, on an average, $120 a year per car. It will cost me more, since I drive 30,000 miles a year. Money is tight for a lot of us.

Ingham County

U.S. 23 was shut down in both directions just south of Flint after a multi-vehicle accident was caused by a snow squall. At least 20 vehicles were involved. The Detroit News reports traffic is back up and running on northbound 23 :

A dispatcher at the Flint post of the Michigan State Police said traffic was moving again on northbound U.S. 23 as of 2 p.m., and that southbound would be reopened as soon as several cars were towed from the roadway.

Crews from the Genesee County Road Commission were also called in to erect barricades to move traffic away from the area.

And WOOD-TV reports that weather conditions caused a shut down on I-94 westbound near Paw Paw, Michigan just before 2 p.m. when two semi-trucks collided.

The National Weather Service reports that snow is expected to continue to fall across much of the state into tomorrow.

As a strong cold front moves offshore over the Atlantic, the cold air behind it will help produce lake effect snow across the Great Lakes region on Thursday and Friday. As much as 5-10 inches of lake effect snow is possible through Thursday night, with additional accumulation expected on Friday. In addition, temperatures 20-40 degrees below normal are forecast for the Upper Midwest.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Judge says prisoners sentenced as juveniles should get parole hearings 

Judge John Corbett O'Meara says a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory no-parole sentences applies retroactively to Michigan inmates already behind bars.

There are more than 350 inmates in Michigan prisons serving life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles, and there's been a lot of debate about whether these inmate should get a shot at parole.

The Detroit Free Press has the story of one of those prisoners this morning.

...life has never been simple for Jennifer Pruitt. Her 37 years have been punctuated by turmoil -- a tough upbringing, a life sentence for murder, repeated rapes in prison and glimmers of hope that quickly got dashed.

Road funding discussions get underway in Michigan legislature

In his State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder made roads a top priority. He called for new revenue to support road building. Whether that will mean higher taxes or higher fees for Michigan residents remains to be seen. Jonathan Oosting of MLive reports the discussions will get underway soon:

... a joint resolution introduced by Republican Sens. Randy Richardville, Roger Kahn and Bruce Caswell offers a simple starting point for discussions: A constitutional amendment to raise the state sales tax from 6 percent to 8 percent. As a trade-off for the increased sales tax, a related bill would eliminate the state's 19-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax.

Such a tax increase would require voter approval. Other plans, such as increasing gas taxes or registration fees, are being considered as well.

Investment in Pontiac, GM plans expansion

General Motors announced its consolidating some of its research and development operations and expanding its Global Powertrain Engineering Headquarters in Pontiac. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports the company is expected to invest $200 million in the Pontiac facility.

GM estimates the move will move about 400 jobs now in various facilities to Pontiac. The investment is part of a GM commitment to invest $1.5 billion in North American facilities across the state and the country.

GM officials say employees will start transferring to Pontiac as soonas the middle this year, and the expansion will be completed in mid 2014.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Critics of Governor Snyder's roads funding say weight limit an issue

Critics of Governor Rick Snyder's proposal to spend more than a billion dollars to fix Michigan's roads say the state should change it's weight limit on roads. Michigan has the highest weight limit on roads in the nation. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"They say if Michigan brought its weight restrictions more into line with other states, its roads and bridges would last longer. State officials acknowledge Michigan's maximum truck weight of 164,000 pounds -- just more than twice the federal weight limit."

Hathaway resignation could give Supreme Court a Republican 5-2 majority

State Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway officially resigned yesterday. As Kate Wells reports, "She's facing federal charges for bank fraud. But it's not just the political scandal: Hathaway was nominated to the bench by a Democratic governor. Now, Republican Governor Rick Snyder gets to choose her replacement. That could bring the court's tally to five Republican judges and just two Democrats."

McDonalds to pay fine to a Detroit-area restaurant over claim on Muslim dietary law

"McDonald's and one of its franchise owners have agreed to pay $700,000 dollars to members of the Muslim community. That's in an effort to settle allegations a Detroit-area restaurant falsely advertised its food as being prepared according to Islamic dietary laws. A spokesman says there's no evidence McDonald's set out to deceive customers," the Associated Press reports.

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.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Time is running out for Congress to pass a new federal transportation funding bill.

The last funding bill expired in 2009.   Congress has passed a series of extensions of the old law since then.  

A coalition of Michigan environmental groups and unions say the ongoing delay is hurting state roads.

Mark Schauer is the head of the BlueGreen Alliance.   The former Michigan congressman says the state’s roads are deteriorating, in part, because Congress can’t agree on a new six year federal transportation spending plan.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one that had to replace a tire as a result of hitting a huge pothole," says Schauer.

Michigan Congressmen Dave Camp and Fred Upton are on the special House-Senate conference committee working on the transportation bill. A spokeswoman for the committee says discussions continue with hopes of reaching an agreement before the deadline at the end of next month. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Motorists are spending $4 for a gallon of regular gas in Troy and Okemos. And other parts of Michigan may soon join them. Michigan’s gasoline prices shot up 12 cents on Monday.     

Dustin Coupal is a co-founder of GasBuddy.com. He says increasing world demand for oil is pushing Michigan’s gasoline pricescloser to record high territory.

“Over time, it’s a definite certainty…whether it happens this week ….or next month," says Coupal, "Unfortunately higher gas prices are coming.” According to GasBuddy.com, Michigan’s average regular gas price is around $3.80 a gallon. The state set a record last May, when the average price hit $4.26 a gallon.

Ingham County

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation that will allow county boards of commissioners to dissolve and take over duties of county road commissions in Michigan.

The Republican governor signed the legislation Tuesday.

Appointed county road commissions could be dissolved by a majority vote of a county's board of commissioners. Voters would have the final decision on whether to dissolve road commissions in
counties where road commissioners are elected.

Supporters say the measures will save money by eliminating duplicative administrative costs.

Some critics say a vote of the people should be required in all counties because each road commission was created by such a vote, not just those with elected commissioners.

(Official state portrait)

Legislation that will allow county boards of commissioners to take over duties of county road commissions is expected to be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Snyder is scheduled to sign the legislation Tuesday at the state Capitol.

The bills were approved by the Michigan Legislature earlier this month.

Supporters say the measures would save money by eliminating duplicative administrative costs.

Ingham County

Legislation that would allow counties to scrap their road commissions is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder.

Once the governor signs the bills, it would be up to county commissions to decide whether to get rid of their road commissions, and take over their responsibilities.

The bills cleared the state House today along largely party-line votes.

State Representative Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga) voted against the measures.

She says it would be too easy for county commissions to divert money currently used for plowing and repairs to other purposes.

“I have sincere concerns about what will happen if the county road commissions are absolved into the county board and what will happen to those road funds,” said Byrum. “Currently, they’re designated to be used on roads but, I just - I have some serious concerns.”

But State Representative Dale Zorn (R-Ida) says county commissions won’t abolish their road commissions unless it makes financial sense.

“Because that, I believe it will work in some counties. In some counties, it won’t be as advantageous for them to do,” explained Zorn. “It really depends on how much money is being paid in the cost of administrative services.”

Road commissioners say the legislation puts too much local politics into road management.

user orinzebest / Flickr

Voters may soon decide whether Michigan should scrap the 19-cents-per-gallon tax on gas at the pump in favor of a sales tax increase of 1 percent.

The change would help generate more money for transportation funding.

A proposal to put the question to voters is gaining momentum with some legislative leaders.

That change would require a constitutional amendment and put the question to voters on the ballot.

Republican state Senator Howard Walker sponsored the measure. He said if taxpayers are asked to pay more to fix the state’s roads, they should have a voice.

Drivers in Michigan may soon pay nine cents more per gallon at the gas pump.

A package of bills that would change funding for the state’s aging bridges and roads has been rolled out at the state Capitol.

It would get rid of the fuel-tax at the pump in favor of a tax at the wholesale level. That would result in drivers paying a few cents more per gallon. 

Drivers might also have pay more to register their vehicles. The package of bills also includes a plan to increase vehicle registration fees by 67 percent.

That should generate about $500 million dollars for transportation.

State Representative Rick Olson (R-Saline) said generating money to maintain roads is similar to a driver changing the oil in a car.

"Why do you do that? Because you want to save your engine," said Olson. "Same thing with roads; unless we do some of this capital preventative maintenance on a timely basis, we’re going to have more and more roads fall into the ‘poor’ category when then it costs 6 to 8 times as much to repair."

There are no plans to turn any of the state’s major highways into toll roads. But Olson said the conversation could come up in the future.

"Oh, it’s a possibility, but I don’t hear anyone pushing that at this point. Toll roads, tolls are a relatively inefficient way to collect funds for roads," said Olson. "Does create jobs, but those are government jobs, so why not then create the net revenue the most efficient way we can."

The package of bills also includes a plan to create a regional transit authority in southeast Michigan. 

Governor Rick Snyder called on lawmakers to find about $1.5 billion in additional revenue to adequately fund transportation needs.

Fixing the roads

Jan 23, 2012

To say that Governor Rick Snyder isn’t popular these days with Democrats,  liberals and even some independent voters would probably be an understatement. Many were upset by his decisions to cut education spending in order to drastically lower business taxes. Others weren’t happy that the state is now taxing pensions.

And there was widespread unhappiness when Snyder signed a bill that prevents state and local governments from offering domestic partnership benefits to their employees. Polls indicate that some who voted for him fourteen months ago wouldn’t do so today.

Flickr user fellowship of the rich

A package of bills soon to be introduced in the Michigan Legislature is expected to propose higher vehicle registration fees and tax changes to raise more money for road repairs. The bipartisan bills will have support from Republican Governor Rick Snyder. He says Michigan is under-investing in its roads to the tune of $1.4 billion a year.
    

Snyder says it would make more financial sense to start addressing the problem now. The repair bill will be even worse the longer Michigan waits to address the problem.
    

Bernt_Rostad / flickr

Some state lawmakers hope to settle a decades-old controversy over how people use public access points to inland lakes.

In some places, it’s an annual tradition for people to set up a neighborhood dock at a road end access point. But some lakefront property owners complain about people and boats crowding the road ends. Often, the arguments wind up in court.

“Our water resources need to be open and accessible to the people, but on the other hand, we have to ensure that the rights of waterfront owners are protected, too,” said Hugh McDiarmid of the Michigan Environmental Council.  “So I don’t think the legislation will end the dispute, but it might provide the framework to resolve disputes a little more easily.”        

A bill before the state Senate would make it a misdemeanor to install a dock or permanently tie a watercraft unless a local ordinance allows it. The law would allow fines of 500 dollars a day for violations.

“It’s always good to know what’s expected there and what you can and cannot do,” said Kent Wood of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. “The more that you can clarify exactly what activities are allowed and what’s not allowed, that could go a long way in clearing up a lot of these issues.”     

Wood says his group wants to make sure any new law helps doesn’t make it harder for people to access lakes.

Guitarfool5931 / flickr

Legislation is expected to be introduced next month to change the way Michigan pays for road maintenance.

Governor Snyder has a two-part plan for road funding. The first part would switch to a gas tax based on the price of fuel, instead of the number of gallons sold. That’s important because gas tax revenues are slipping as people drive more fuel-efficient cars.

According to a press release from the office of Michigan Senator Carl Levin, the federal Department of Transportation has granted $3.6 million to the St. Clair County Road Commission for repairs on a section of Smiths Creek Road. Work will take place on a 2.6 mile stretch of the road and will include replacement of a bridge spanning the Pine River.

From the press release:

(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.

Screen shot

Governor Rick Snyder gave an address on infrastructure today at Southfield's Lawrence Technological University. His plan focuses on improving Internet access, roads, and sewer systems.

Here to take a look at what was mentioned and what was left out are Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

 

 

user K_Gradinger / Flickr

A series of bicycle lanes stretching 16 miles and connecting three neighborhoods in southwest Detroit has been completed. The Greenlink is part of the city's urban master plan for non-motorized transportation and allows bike riders safe access to the three historic neighborhoods.
    

A $500,000 Michigan Department of Transportation grant funded 80 percent of the project. Other grants and fundraisers paid for the other 20 percent.
    

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.

A bipartisan legislative workgroup has determined that keeping Michigan's roads useable will require an additional $1.4 billion a year.

In 10 years, that number grows to an estimated $2.6 billion.

Business and infrastructure groups have been pressuring the Michigan Legislature for years without success to come up with a way to raise more money for fixing and maintaining roads and bridges.

Representative Rick Olson says Michigan needs to more than double what it spends to maintain streets and highways:

“Well I think the bottom line of this study is, unless we spend this kind of money we’re either going to need to reconcile ourselves to poorer roads, or we’re going to need to be willing to pay even more in the future.”

 Olson says raising the gas tax would not go far enough in raising revenue to pay for roads. He says a larger and more permanent solution will need to be found to generate revenue. Olson and his Democratic counterpart have submitted their report to state House leadership.

 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Road work in Michigan has become more quick fixes than long-term repairs as the state balances the scope of construction projects with the dwindling funds necessary to carry them out. A five-year report shows transportation officials expect a drop of more than $700 million annually from what's being spent now in highway program funds beginning October 1st and stretching into the 2015 fiscal year.

The report points to a drop in state revenue and predictions that Michigan will not be able to put up enough matching money to secure all available federal aid for transportation projects.

Michigan's Five-Year Transportation Program invests just over $6 billion into highway and other programs. But upward of $160 million more in state revenue is needed each fiscal year to match all available federal aid.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

AAA Michigan predicts state highways will be busy on Memorial Day.     The automobile club’s survey shows one point one million Michiganders plan to travel during the 5 day holiday period, 91% by car.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan saw an increase in the number of traffic deaths in 2010.  It was the first increase in 7 years. 

According to a new report, 936 people died on Michigan roads last year.   That’s an 8% increase over 2009.

Traffic fatalities have been declining in Michigan since the early 2000’s when more than a thousand people were dying each year in car crashes. 

LisaW123 / Flickr

Freezing rain has closed portions of some southeast Michigan freeways and made driving conditions dangerous for commuters.

The Associated Press reports:

...portions of Interstate 94, Interstate 75 and the Lodge Freeway (M-10) were closed early Friday morning in Detroit, while portions of the Southfield Freeway (M-39) in Dearborn and Interstate 96 in Howell also have been shut down... Several accidents have been reported.

The National Weather Service in White Lake Township says freezing rain is expected to change to rain by noon. High temperatures in the low 40s are expected.

The Michigan State Police has confirmed to Michigan Radio that as of 6:57 a.m. parts of Northbound 23 were closed as were parts of Northbound I-475.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Wayne County has fired the head of its roads division after getting deluged with complaints about unplowed roads.

Metro Detroit has as much as ten inches of snow on the ground after a storm earlier this week.

Michelle Smart commutes to her job at Ford in Dearborn using the Southfield Freeway. She says on Monday’s drive, people were trying to make lanes where they could through the snow.

"The plows had not come through. It was extremely slippery and dangerous."

Road crews across the state have been struggling to keep up with this winter’s near-record snowfall with budgets that are much smaller than in years past.

Ten years ago, Wayne County had more than 700 people working for the roads division during the winter months. This year it has a little more than 300.

Michael Gil / Flickr

Before April showers can bring May flowers, January snows bring February potholes. Roads all across Michigan are showing the strain of the premature Spring thaw, with in some cases cavernous holes opening up.

Pages