transportation

How a pothole forms gif animation
Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

After Proposal  1 was voted down earlier this month, the message from voters seemed to be that they wanted a bill that simply addressed road funding. No extra politics, special interests or provisions.

So what happens when you strip away the politics of road repair? What goes into the actual, well, road repair?

The Herbert C. Jackson prepares to enter the MacArthur Lock while the Tuscarora approaches the Poe Lock pier.
Michelle Hill / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (AP) - Another cargo shipping season is underway on the upper Great Lakes.

The navigational lock complex at Sault Ste. Marie was to open Wednesday just after midnight after being closed since January 15 for routine maintenance.

Ryan Elder

One way to prevent accidents might come from redesigning road signs. 

A new contractor will run Ann Arbor school buses next year.
Leslie Science and Nature Center / Flickr

Update 2:48 p.m.

The school buses are running again this afternoon in Ann Arbor. A spokesperson for the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, the agency responsible for operating the district's bus system, has drivers for this afternoon.

Michigan Radio's Virginia Gordon spoke with WISD spokesperson Emma Jackson.

Vanessa Miller / Detroit Bus Company

The Detroit Bus Company launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for their Youth Transit Alliance.

The Alliance, which began in 2013, helps get kids from the Southwest Detroit neighborhood of Springwells to after-school programs, then safely back home afterwards, for free. 

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan riveted his town for nearly an hour last night with a state of the city address glowing with infectious, can-do optimism. 

Things are getting better, he insisted, facts and figures rolling off his tongue. The city is selling vacant properties no one thought possible to sell. Police response times are much better. Detroit has twice as many ambulances as it did.

Airliner.
Andrey Belenko / Flickr

You know how it can go: flight delays - angry customers - long line - baggage that goes astray.

A group of University of Michigan engineers is busy crunching a lot of numbers in the hopes of reducing the impact of one of the leading causes of flight delays: bad weather.

Amy Cohn is an associate professor in industrial and operations engineering at Michigan. She has a special interest in airline industry operations and she joined us today.

Listen to our conversation with Cohn above.

GALESBURG, Mich. (AP) - Authorities say all lanes have reopened on Interstate 94 in southwestern Michigan two days after the 193-vehicle pileup on the snowy highway.

  State transportation officials say the eastbound lanes reopened Sunday morning, a few hours after those on the westbound side.

  Efforts to reopen the highway stalled Saturday as crews tried to remove acid from a tanker truck.

Update 9:45 p.m.

Michigan State Police now say there were 193 vehicles in total involved in the pile up.

Police say there were 76 semi-trucks involved in the accident. Some caught fire, including one hauling 44,000 pounds of hazardous materials and another with a load of fireworks.

Several hours after the crash, crews were still putting out flare ups.

One of the truck drivers died. The 57-year old was from Quebec. At least 20 people were injured, including two firemen and a wrecker driver.

GM had an event-filled year. The company announced more shifts at assembly plants, like at this one - the Wentzville Assembly plant in Missouri. It also dealt with the fallout from the ignition switch recall.
GM

For the world's automakers 2014 was full of good news and some very, very bad news.

We take a look back at the year with Michele Krebs, director of Automotive Relations with the Auto Trader Group, and Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio's auto reporter.

Listen to our conversation with them below.

User _chrisUK / flickr.com

The state House has passed a $1.2 billion plan to boost road funding without raising taxes and instead using money that would otherwise go to schools and local governments.

A bill approved Thursday night by the Republican-led chamber would gradually eliminate the 6 percent sales tax at the pump and gradually increase per-gallon fuel taxes.

Tailpipe Exhaust
Flickr user JT

Americans care more about fuel economy than ever before, but did you know that the EPA does their MPG testing at their laboratory in Ann Arbor?

The EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality is located on Plymouth Road and employs 450 workers. It was created in 1970  for its close distance to the "Big Three." 

But cars aren't the only vehicle subject to MPG testing. From weed whackers to ocean vessels, anything with a motor must meet the EPA's standards.

With so many vehicles being released the lab doesn't have time to check all of them individually. Instead, the dealers themselves test their own vehicles and are subject to audits to make sure their own results can be matched when tested in the Ann Arbor lab.

Chris Grundler, director of the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality, understands their work's importance.

The office is in charge of setting the standards along with enforcing them. Their testing is done not only to protect the environment, but to make sure consumers receive the quality advertised to them when investing in a new vehicle.

You can listen to our conversation with Grundler below.


auto.ferrari.com

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, FCA, will hold a public stock offering to sell off 10% of Ferrari and dole out the remaining 80% of the company to current shareholders.

Piero Ferrari will hold onto his 10%.

Michigan Radio's automotive reporter Tracy Samilton discussed this sale with us.

Samilton says that about 7,000 Ferraris are made a year, which along with their price, gives the vehicle an “unattainable mystique.”

The dispute over stretching that number to make more sales is a contributing factor to the split between FCA and Ferrari.

Amtrack will be adding 18 trains to its Wolverine Line over Thanksgiving.
JP Moore / flickr.com

Amtrak announced on Saturday that it will be adding 18 trains in Michigan during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period.

According to an Amtrak press release

The busiest travel days are the Tuesday and Wednesday  before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after the holiday. Other than Thanksgiving Day, morning  trains typically have more available seats than those in the afternoon and evening.

Road sign for 8 Mile Rd.
Sean Loyless / Flickr

When Michael Imperiale moved to Michigan from Brooklyn, New York, he noticed the mile road system and wanted to know what it was all about. 

"I've asked people from time to time, occasionally, and no one seemed to know," Imperiale said. He's a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Michigan. 

Asking his friends was a dead end, but that didn't stop Imperiale's curiosity. He took to M I Curious and asked a simple question: 8 Mile is 8 miles from where? 

Will Ann Arbor succeed with its bike sharing program?

Oct 10, 2014
Heather Seyfarth and "Cooper" at the Clean Energy Coalition in Ann Arbor.
Doug Coombe

Bike share programs are not a new concept – there are successful bike share programs in major cities all throughout the world. If you travel around North America, you'll find citywide bike share programs in Chicago, New York, Boston, Austin, Des Moines, Denver, Boulder, D.C., Madison (WI), Minneapolis/St. Paul, Philadelphia, Columbus, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Baltimore, the Bay Area, Toronto, and Montreal, among others.  

At the end of September the new ArborBike bike share program in downtown Ann Arbor debuted, becoming the first and currently only public bike share program in southeastern Michigan. 

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. 

A sign indicating a "Michigan Left".
User diablo234 / SkyScraperCity

As part of our M I Curious project, Nick Ochal asked Michigan Radio this question:

What is the origin of the infamous "Michigan Left" that befuddles so many out-of-staters?

Preparing track for the M-1 rail project in Detroit.
M-1 Rail / Facebook

Dignitaries including Michigan Gov. Snyder, Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, Representatives John Dingell and John Conyers, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and business leaders Roger Penske and Dan Gilbert were on hand for a "track signing" ceremony this morning in Detroit.

The M-1 rail project is streetcar line planned for a 3.3. mile stretch along Woodward Ave. in Detroit. The project has received more than $35 million in federal funds, but the majority of its financing comes from private backers.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder says massive flooding this week in and around Detroit reinforces the need to boost state spending on roads. Snyder says Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure may have played a role in the floods, although it’s too early to tell for sure.

“I don’t want to be premature, but you would imagine it would have some consequences in terms of magnifying the effect on the freeway flooding,” Snyder told reporters as he surveyed damage at homes and schools in Royal Oak on Friday. “That wouldn’t have affected the homes, but in terms of the freeway challenges.”

User: #96 / Flickr

    

It's hard to imagine driving without the guidance of the tri-color traffic light, isn't it?

Turns out, that tri-color light that keeps us from crashing into each other at intersections was the brainchild of a Detroit police officer.

Matt Anderson is curator of transportation at The Henry Ford museum complex. Anderson says there had generally been two lights – one telling us to stop and the other telling us to go. But William Potts, a Detroit police officer, found a way to make the lights safer.

“It was Potts’ inspiration to put in the third light, sort of amber caution, letting you know the signal change is imminent, so that you can prepare to slow down,” says Anderson.

Today, there are more than 3oo,000 intersections with traffic signals throughout the U.S.

And where was the first four-way traffic signal tower installed in the world?

It was at a corner of Woodward Avenue here in Detroit, says Anderson.

* Listen to the full interview with Matt Anderson above.

user Jeff B / Flickr

Everybody has their own philosophy when it comes to merging in construction zones.

Conventional wisdom on the roads seems to be that when faced with an approaching merge, you should just get over as soon as you can and just wait for your turn like a good little driver.

The people whizzing by in the open lane are looked down upon - morally corrupt drivers making a BAD decision refusing to get in line and wait for their turn. 

Watching the other drivers zoom ahead makes you feel like this:

Wikimedia Commons

There are many different auto museums – some dedicated to displaying cars with unique engineering and designs, and others dedicated to displaying the automobile’s impact on society.

Michigan's auto museums have had little success. Flint’s "Autoworld" theme park closed two years after opening, and the Walter P. Chrysler Museum closed its doors recently.

Europe has had a different experience.

Autostadt, which means “auto city” in German, is in Wolfsburg, Germany. It averages about two million visitors per year. BMW and Porsche also have notable museums in Germany.

Why do auto museums in Europe succeed, while those in the auto capital of the world have not?

“Europeans seem to have such a deep bond with their vehicles,” says Paul Eisenstein, publisher of  The Detroit Bureau. “They are seemingly more interested in the mechanicals and what have you. They have a tendency to be drawn to automotive exhibits, museums, parks, and everything at a much greater rate than Americans are.”

*Listen to our interview with Eisenstein at 3 p.m. today. We'll post the audio for that interview here around 4:30 p.m. 

Detroit Skyline
Shawn Wilson / Wikimedia Commons

In spite of its nickname, the Motor City has well-known transportation problems.

A large proportion of Detroiters don't own cars, and buses are notoriously late and overcrowded.

Now, residents have a new option.

It's a website based on a platform used at colleges, called detroit.ridepost.com.

Debra Rowe heads the Detroit Green Skills Alliance, which works on sustainability issues.

She convinced the person who created the platform to donate it, and says it will be useful for all kinds of people.

DETROIT – Michigan airport executives are seeking an aviation fuel tax increase to help make improvements and repairs at the state's 235 public airports.

The state House-approved plan would help general aviation and commercial airports avoid falling far short of more than $730 million needed for fixes in the next five years. The Detroit News reports (http://bit.ly/1pS2G1Y ) it's stuck in the Senate in part amid concerns by Delta Air Lines.

About $190 million in runway and taxiway reconstruction, as well as demolition work at the Smith and Berry terminals at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, is at stake as part of the state's five-year plan. Other major projects are planned in Grand Rapids, Flint and elsewhere.

Image by Mark Brush / Map from MDOT

Construction crews will soon start working on the long stretch of highway east of I-275 that connects Detroit with outlying areas. Officials say the highway will be closed for six months. The project was originally scheduled to get underway in January, but weather delayed the start.

The freeway will be closed starting tomorrow at 7 a.m. Ramps will begin to close tonight starting at 7 p.m.

Transportation officials have put together a website to inform motorists, and they have been counting down the days on their Twitter handle:

More about the $148 million project from their website:

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is reconstructing a 7-mile stretch of I-96 from Newburgh Road in the city of Livonia to Telegraph Road in Redford Township. It will require complete closure of the interstate ... Work includes reconstructing the road and repairing 37 bridges, including on and off ramps. The project will bring the corridor to current design standards and improve safety. Clearances at the 37 bridges/overpasses also will be increased to improve safety.

Go here for more information about other major construction projects around the state.

*A previous post reflected the estimated closure time listed on MDOT's website - 7-12 months. An MDOT official said they expect the highway to be closed 6 months. The post is now updated.

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.

Ford Motor Company

What matters more to you: Being able to drive faster, or being able to walk or ride your bike without dodging a speeding car?

That's how the battle lines are forming over a package of bills soon to be introduced in the state Legislature. It would allow the state to give drivers more leeway to put the pedal to the metal.

Tim Fischer is with the Transportation for Michigan coalition and the Michigan Environmental Council and he joined us today.

*Listen to our interview above.

Issue Media Group

Cities like Ann Arbor, Portland, and Seattle are known for promoting biking in their cities, but biking hasn't found much of a foothold in many traditional Rust Belt cities.

Some people are trying to change that. Issue Media Group has two pieces profiling those people.

In their publication Mid-Michigan Second Wave, writer Kelli Kavanaugh looks at this trend in Flint. Kavanaugh spoke with Flint native Andy Stamps who founded the Berston Bicycle Club Project. 

user cme / wikimedia commons

Are Americans driving less?

Some interesting statistics from the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute finds that from coast to coast, more of us are making do without a car or truck.

So, what's changing in the way younger Americans look at cars?

We're joined by Bridge Magazine writer Rick Haglund, who recently explored these questions in a piece titled "As Detroit auto show revs, America cools to car culture."

And we're joined by writer Micki Maynard, founder and editor in chief of Curbing Cars, a website that chronicles changing attitudes towards transportation. She's also a former Detroit bureau chief for The New York Times.

*Listen to the audio above.

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