transportation

net_efekt / Flickr

County road commissions are closely watching their budgets, after spending more than usual on winter maintenance this year.

Freeze-and-thaw cycles have caused a wave of potholes across Michigan.

"If winter is very expensive, that can impact our other activities that the road commission performs, but pothole filling is something of great importance for us and we will address that," said Jim Harmon, director of field operations for the Washtenaw County Road Commission. 

Gov. Rick Snyder called for $1.2 billion a year in additional money for fixing roads in last year's State of the State address. But his proposal failed to gain traction in the legislature. He's expected to try again this year.

smaedli / Creative Commons

NILES, Mich. (AP) - An Amtrak train carrying more than 200 people has arrived in Chicago after weather-related problems caused it to stop for more than eight hours in southwestern Michigan.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says the train's engine lost power Sunday due to cold weather. But he says heat, lights and restrooms still worked.

The train started in Pontiac, north of Detroit, and had trouble between Niles and New Buffalo in the corner of southwestern Michigan. It was later connected to another westbound train and arrived in Chicago around 1:30 a.m. CST Monday.

Magliari says passengers may have been frustrated but they were always safe on the stalled train. He says it was better to keep them on the train rather than switch to buses, even if buses were available.

Morguefile

American Airlines and U.S. Airways have agreed to continue daily service to six Michigan communities for at least five years.

It's part of a settlement agreement reached with Michigan and five other states as part of the two airlines' proposed merger.

The affected cities in Michigan are Detroit, Flint, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Marquette.

MDOT

More communities in Michigan are embracing bike lanes.

Grand Rapids plans to add 40 more miles of bike lanes in the next few years. Detroit has an aggressive approach to implementing them and they're popping up in places like Adrian and South Haven, not to mention the biking hot spots of Traverse City and Marquette.

Josh DeBruyn is the bike and pedestrian coordinator for MDOT. Part of his job is to deal with the applications that towns send him when they apply for grants to help install bike lanes.

DeBruyn says he gets double to triple the amount of applicants that he can actually fulfill for these kinds of grants.

He also says he hears from plenty of people and organizations about what he calls "motor vehicle angst" - or drivers who are frustrated and sometimes aggressive with cyclists.

You can listen to my interview with him here:

user Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr

So there you are, driving to and from work or school every day.

Chances are, there's probably a stretch of highway you drive that seems particularly soul-numbing and doesn't let you get any sense of place or community.

If you could design a highway, what would it look like? And could it improve, rather than just carve up your city?

That's the idea behind Highways for Habitats, a contest being run by the Michigan Municipal League's Let's Save Michigan Initiative.

Sarah Szurpicki is a project coordinator with the Let's Save Michigan Initiative, and she's been involved in many efforts to revitalize cities in the Great Lakes region. She joins us today to discuss the contest that would allow drivers to play transportation planner. 

Listen to full interview above. 

TART Trails

The Michigan Transportation Odyssey is going from Traverse City to Detroit this week using only public transportation. It's an annual event held by Transportation for Michigan, which advocates for transportation policy changes around the state.

Kathryn Gray is a spokeswoman for Transportation for Michigan. She says the Odyssey is meant to celebrate Michigan's accomplishments in public transportation over the past year. But they're also thinking about ways Michigan's public transit can improve.

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.

Adam Fagen / Flickr

The Ann Arbor City Council Thursday night approved a plan for a bike share program. It's a collaboration with the University of Michigan, the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and the Clean Energy Coalition.

People around the world and right here in Michigan are rethinking money in order to ease financial woes, and they're doing it with local currency. On today's show we found out what it is, and where it's working.

And, we headed up north to a resort town where a vacation can lead to putting down roots and building a business.

Also, one of the co-founders of The Artist Lounge joined us to tell us about how her business is breathing new life into Pontiac.

And, the Farm Bill and food stamp programs expire at the end of September. We took a closer look at what this means for Michiganders receiving federal food assistance.

Also, we spoke with Micki Maynard about what she thinks the future of personal transportation will look like.

First on the show, a State Senate panel has voted to make more than 300,000 Michiganders eligible for Medicaid in 2014. And that's not all: the GOP-led Government Operations Committee said yes to two alternative plans.

So, from the Senate ticking off Governor Snyder by adjourning without voting on the House-passed Medicaid expansion plan to this Senate Panel serving up not one, not two, but three Medicaid proposals, it's a lot to keep track of.

We turned to Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing reporter Jake Neher for a little help in sorting this all out.

What does the future hold for the way we get from Point A to Point B?

Writer Micki Maynard is looking at what's happening all around the country in terms of personal transportation and she sees big changes on the way.

Micki is the former Detroit bureau chief for the New York Times and she has authored four books, including "The End of Detroit: How the Big Three Lost Their Grip on the American Car Industry."

And now she's got a new project in the works, a proposed e-book called "Curbing Cars."

Micki Maynard joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

Wikipedia

Are you ready to let your car do the driving?

Once we thought of the self-driving car as something from science fiction. But technological breakthroughs have been coming at ever-increasing speeds.

Google expects its driverless car will be ready for consumers in the next 3-5 years. GM thinks intelligent vehicles will be on the roads by 2020. Ford predicts 2025.

And researchers at the University of Michigan are making sure the Great Lakes State is front-and-center in developing and testing the connected vehicle technology that is essential to the self-driving car.

The director of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Dr. Peter Sweatman, and Richard Wallace, the director of Transportation Systems Analysis for the Center for Automotive Research, joined us today to talk about the future of transportation.

Listen to the full interview above.

Colorful used cars
Zelda Richardson

A new study from the University of Michigan suggests that Americans who drive light-duty vehicles (cars, SUVS, pick-up trucks, and vans) don't drive as far as they used to. 

The study, from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (MTRI), was published this month, and looks at national driving trends from 1984-2011. 

According to MTRI's findings, the distance people drove peaked in 2004. Distances were evaluated based on how much a person, a licensed driver, a household and a registered vehicle traveled. 

The major takeaway from the study is that because distances decreased before the 2008 recession, the lower numbers weren't a result of a short-term issue. Essentially, the lower distances driven seem to be a part of a longer term trend. 

Michigan's next Senator Gary Peters.
U.S. Representative Gary Peters

A half-dozen major transportation infrastructure projects are in the works for southeast Michigan, and Congressman Gary Peters wants to make sure local workers get the jobs that come along with them.

Peters convened a transportation jobs summit to push that objective Monday.

“If we’re bringing federal money into the state of Michigan, I want people from the state of Michigan working on those projects," said Peters. "And if the project is in the city of Detroit, then I want Detroiters working on those projects.”

Peters says those federal funds often come tied to thousands of local employment opportunities—but that doesn’t always work out.

Flickr

Earlier this summer, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, SEMCOG, adopted something called the "2040 Regional Transportation Plan." It's a roadmap, essentially, of how to spend $36 billion over the next 30 years to improve transportation in Southeast Michigan.

Of all the proposed improvements in this plan, the most controversial has been the renovation and expansion of I-94 and I-75. The price tag to expand and renovate these Detroit-area freeways is around $4 billion.

But critics say the proposals, especially the I-94 project, would force neighbors to pay a different price.

Cyclists will descend on Detroit for the 11th Annual Tour de Troit on Saturday.
Brian Stoeckel

Students across Michigan hopped on their bikes this morning, in celebration of the country’s second annual Bike to School Day. According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, more than 80 Michigan schools geared up for the two-wheeled holiday, up from 45 schools in 2012.

Bike to School Day rolls around just days after the League of American Bicyclists released their report on the most bike-friendly states in the country. Michigan earned a spot in the top twenty, falling in 12th place on the group’s survey. In the Midwest region, Michigan was ranked fourth.

Ifmuth / Flickr

Each week we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants. Today we talk about transportation funding. Governor Snyder has called for $1.2 billion to address roads and transportation in Michigan, but there's no agreement in the legislature about how to get the money.

Plus, people are filing taxes and starting to feel the impact of some of the changes in the Michigan tax code, which includes the reduction in the Earned Income Tax Credit. Now a coalition is calling for the EITC to be restored, and Democrats in the House and Senate agree. What's next for the EITC?

And, as the Detroit City Council plans to appeal Governor Snyder’s decision to appointment an emergency financial manager for the city they are doing so without the support of Mayor Dave Bing who says it’s a fight they can’t win. Is he right?

user ka_tate / Flickr

As the Obama Administration began making its case against 'the sequester' - the mandatory, across-the-board budget cuts that were never supposed to happen - delays at airports was one of the big issues they highlighted.

Here's Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at a press conference on Feb. 22, where he said more than $600 million will have to come out of the Federal Aviation Administration budget.

So what will this mean at Detroit Metro?

LaHood said the majority of FAA employees will be furloughed for one to two days per pay period.

Michael Martinez writes for the Detroit News that airport officials don't expect cuts this month, but they do expect them next month:

Business group raises $6.4M for Detroit lighting

Mar 3, 2013
Flickr user Molly Des Jardin

A private business group has stepped up with $6.4 million to do what struggling Detroit couldn't - restore working street lights along a 2.3 mile thoroughfare on the city's southwest side.

The 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid.
Ford Motor Company

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

The auto industry seems to be coming back to life, but there does not seem to be much buzz surrounding alternative energy vehicles, and that's being reflected in sales.

January figures were anemic at best for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

The Obama Administration predicted a million electric cars would be on our highways by 2015.

Today there are barely 30,000.

Just why aren't these vehicles catching on with the public?

And is there anything the automakers can do to make those EVs and plug-ins more appealing?

Cindy talked with Sean McAlinden, Executive VP of Research and Chief Economist at the Center for Auto Research, and David Shepardson, the Washington Bureau Chief for the Detroit News.

user amtrak_russ / Flickr

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

More and more of us not just here in Michigan, but across the nation, are traveling by train and turning to Amtrak.

Its trains carried 31.2 million passengers in its fiscal year that ended last September.

Here in Michigan, a record-setting 793,000 people traveled on Amtrak's three routes, bringing in all-time high revenues of $27.8 million in Michigan.

What's behind our growing affection for the train?

Adie Tomar is a researcher with the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

He joined us from Washington.

The Detroit News / Twitter

Update 4:22 p.m.

Traffic is flowing again on Interstate 75 near Detroit in both directions. Crews have cleared the roads after white out conditions led to multiple collisions along the interstate. At least three people were killed.  

1:53 p.m.

Traffic is flowing again on northbound Interstate 75 while authorities clear the remaining vehicles that crashed in a sudden snow squall on the south side of the expressway and claimed at least three lives.

At least half a dozen semi-trucks along with other damaged vehicles are still waiting to be moved. Crews are working to clean up a spill of diesel fuel from the crash.

 State police say the south side of I-75 could be cleared by the afternoon rush hour.

1:04 p.m.

As is the nature of these events, we're getting revised numbers from the Michigan State Police on the number killed in the accident. They now say three people have died, including two children.

12:00 p.m.

Southbound I-75 near Detroit could be closed for some time today. WDIV-TV is reporting clean-up of the crash will take 12-16 hours.

The Detroit Free Press has this first hand account from a driver caught in the crash:

11:41 a.m.

We're hearing the following information on the crash this morning:

  • Four  Three deaths are reported and 15 to 20 people have been transported to local hospitals. No one remains trapped in damaged vehicles.
  • There were 15 vehicles involved in accidents spread out over a mile stretch. The Michigan State Police spokesman said accidents occurred in 'pockets.' He blamed white out conditions for vehicles failing to stop in time.
  • Dozens of undamaged vehicles remain in the accident zone. Those vehicles will be moved as the accident scenes are cleared.

You can watch live coverage of the crash scene from WDIV-TV.

11:07 a.m.

The Detroit News reports the massive pileup has closed southbound I-75 in Detroit and that emergency responders are on the scene.

More from the Detroit News:

The accident scene is reportedly from Springwells to Schaeffer Highway. Emergency crews are evaluating the scene for a potential fuel spill.

Preliminary reports suggest the crash is fatal. Michigan State Police, EMS and the Detroit Fire Department are on the scene. A warming bus also has been requested.

"What we have heard so far is an unconfirmed report that there was a crash shortly after 9 a.m., and that there were chain reaction crashes after that," said Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi. "Multiple police, fire and EMS responders are making their way to the scene. We are doing everything we can to help them reach the crash site."

10:53 a.m.

WDIV-TV is reporting on a crash along I-75 in Detroit this morning. The Detroit News tweets the crash and back-up is over a mile long.

A massive crash involving more than a dozen cars has closed portions of I-75 in Detroit.

The northbound lanes are closed at Schaefer.
The southbound lanes are closed at Springwells.

Local 4 spoke with several drivers at the scene who were able to get out of their cars safely and get off the interstate. They said white-out weather conditions made it very hard to see and contributed to the chain-reaction crash.

WDIV has pictures of the pile up here.

M-1 Rail Detroit

You can say one thing about the backers of the M-1 light rail project in Detroit, they're persistent.

The on-again, off-again federal funding of the project is now on-again, according to reports from the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.

The Freep reports U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to visit Detroit next week with $25 million for the light rail project along 3.3 miles of Woodward Avenue.

The rail line is proposed between downtown Detroit and New Center.

Kansas company has deal to buy Ann Arbor Railroad

Dec 30, 2012

A Kansas-based company says it has a deal to buy the short line Michigan rail company Ann Arbor Railroad Inc.

Pittsburg, Kan.-based Watco Companies LLC says the deal awaits approval from the Surface Transportation Board, which is expected in late January or early February.

The Ann Arbor Railroad serves southeastern Michigan and the Toledo, Ohio, areas, mainly shipping auto and other manufacturing goods. It operates 50 miles of track between Ann Arbor and Toledo and has Toledo-area terminals serving General Motors Co., Chrysler and Ford Motor Co.

Stateside: Mass transit a possible option for the state

Dec 19, 2012
screen grab from YouTube video

Michigan’s  Regional Transit Authority will attempt to redesign travel throughout the state.

Adie Tomer, a Senior Research Associate at the Brookings Institution, says implementing a mass transit system in Detroit is entirely possible. Tomer says the state has put spending highway infrastructure ahead of spending on mass transit.

"One of the consequences of building out so many highways… is an underinvestment relative to those highway miles for public transit. In many ways, this left Detroit as one of the few cities without a major mass transit system," said Tomer.

Stateside: Regional transit authority faces big roadblocks

Nov 29, 2012
A DDOT bus in Detroit. People have been talking about the need for a regional transit authority for many years.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Senate recently passed a bill to create an authority for Detroit and surrounding counties to operate its own transit system.

However, the bill faces significant hurdles in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry and Daniel Howes of the Detroit News addressed the various obstacles the bill must overcome.

The bill is decades in the making and has wide support throughout Michigan, but Howes says the reason it has not yet passed is due to a history of control issues.

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.

A DDOT bus in Detroit. People have been talking about the need for a regional transit authority for many years.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Southeast Michigan county, business, and community leaders seem to agree; the region needs a transit authority to attract businesses and young talent.

Testimony at a House transportation committee hearing overwhelmingly supported bills to create an authority.

John Hertel is the general manager of the SMART transit system. He said this is the first time in four decades he’s seen this level of agreement between the city of Detroit and its suburbs.

"I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s wonderful to see. But while it’s there, we need to strike and move forward. This kind of thing obviously doesn’t come along very often," said Hertel.

Hertel said he’s not yet confident the Legislature will pass the plan.

Robert Daddow spoke on behalf of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. He’s confident the bills will pass.

"The governor has pressed this for some period of time, has been actively working in the coordination between the units – Detroit, Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw - in trying to get an agreement together. And we’re very, very close, if not right there, right now," said Daddow.

State officials have tried many times to establish a regional transit authority in southeast Michigan.

Some supporters are skeptical it can get out of the legislature. Others worry about possible legal challenges if it does pass.

Cyclists will descend on Detroit for the 11th Annual Tour de Troit on Saturday.
Brian Stoeckel

"Cyclists, meet the City of Detroit."

That's basically the goal of Tour de Troit, an event happening this Saturday. That's when thousands of cyclists will take over the streets of Detroit and discover the pleasures of big-city biking during a thirty-mile ride.

Bill Lusa is the director of Tour de Troit.

Cyndy talked to Lusa about what's happening this Saturday?

This year the streets are completely closed to automobile traffic throughout the route, giving participants the opportunity to ride streets freely with other bicyclists Lusa said.

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

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced today it will make available $473 million in road funds to states with pending transportation projects.

In a press release, U.S. Department of Transportation said the money comes from unspent earmarks from FY 2003-2006.

Effective today, state departments of transportation will have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway funds, some of which are nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.

The Detroit News reports Michigan has $15.8 million in 28 projects that hasn't been spent that the state can redirect.

"It will be up to Michigan how to decide to spend their money," LaHood said.

State departments of transportation will have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway money, some of which is nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.

The Obama Administration wants the money spent soon. To use the funds, states must identify projects by October 1, and must obligate them by December 31, 2012.

Cecelia Cichan shows a tattoo of an airplane she has on her wrist. She speaks about being the sole survivor of the crash of NW flight 255 out of Detroit in a documentary. WDIV aired clips of that documentary.
screen shot / WDIV

At 4 years old, she was the sole survivor of one of the worst aviation disasters in U.S. history.

On August 16, 1987, one hundred and fifty-six people were killed when Northwest Flight 255 out of Detroit Metro Airport did not put out its wing flaps and slats, which resulted in dangerously low altitude on takeoff.

The plane clipped a light pole, then a building, and crashed to the ground at about 8:46 p.m. killing all of the crew and passengers except for 4-year-old Cecelia Cichan from Tempe, Arizona.

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