transportation

Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr

If you seek rising gas prices, look about you.

Gas prices in Michigan have ticked up over the course of this past week, an increase of 11 cents, bringing the statewide average up to $3.86.

But what will the effect on Michigan drivers be?

Mantill Williams, a spokesperson for the American Public Transportation Authority, says there is a tipping point at which people begin to consider changing their driving habits.

From ABC News:

Mackinac Bridge
Julie Falk / Flickr

Update:

Michigan ranks 13th worst in the nation for bridge condition according to a new report released on national bridge conditions. The report says 1,400 bridges in Michigan are in critical condition and are deteriorating in some way.

Kirk Steudle is the director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. He says most bridges in Michigan are about 40 years old, and bridges are built to last 50 years.

“We take a slightly different approach with that 50 years, and say that with the right kind of maintenance and preventative maintenance, we can extend that life indefinitely.”

“Well, indefinitely to a point where there’s really nothing more financially responsible to do other than replace the bridge.”

“Our first and foremost responsibility is to make sure that the infrastructure that people are driving on, the bridges they’re driving on, are safe.”

“And if there is a condition that warrants it as immediately unsafe, the bridge will be closed immediately.”

“The bridges that are out there, that people are driving on right now, including all of us, are safe. If the bridge is open, the bridge is safe.”

“It’s been inspected by our bridge engineers, and we take that very seriously and if there’s something that needs to be taken out of service, it will be taken out of service immediately and fixed and adjusted.”

Representatives from Transportation for America, who released the study, say federal support is needed to fix a backlog of bridge issues. They say it will cost about 226 dollars per driver to make sure bridges remain safe and drivable.

Steudle and representatives from Transportation for America say they understand that there is a focus right now on less government spending. But, they say, safety needs to be a priority over budget cuts.

-Laura Weber

1:01 p.m.:

How many bridges do you cross in a day?

However many you cross, it is possible that some of those bridges might be part of the 13% of state bridges that are "structurally deficient."

In a survey of national statistics, the Associated Press found that Michigan came in with the 13th worst bridge statistics.

From the Detroit Free Press:

More than 13% of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient, a number that will only rise as thousands of spans statewide approach their expected 50-year life expectancy, transportation leaders said today.

With about 1,400 bridges ranked structurally deficient, Michigan ranks 13th worst in the nation in the number of bridges in poor condition, according to a report released this morning by Transportation for America, a national transportation advocacy group. The national average is 11.5%.

The average age of Michigan’s bridges is 41 years. The group said nationwide, it would cost $70 billion to upgrade deficient bridges. About 185,000 U.S. bridges are 50 or older, and that number could double by the year 2030.

This news comes on the heels of another big announcement about the long-awaited new Detroit-Windsor bridge, now known as the New International Trade Crossing (NITC).

From an MLive article from last Tuesday:

Governor Rick Snyder is expected, in the next two weeks, to submit a new bill to the Michigan legislature authorizing construction of the new Detroit-Windsor bridge, now called the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) in Lansing.

One of the most significant changes between Snyder’s NITC proposal and the DRIC bill that died in the state Senate last year is the removal of MDOT from the process.  A special authority established to govern the bridge replaces the state agency in the legislation. According to Crain’s Detroit’s Bill Shea, shifting control away from MDOT is seen as an effort to win support among GOP lawmakers.

The removal of MDOT from the equation is one of the significant changes between the NITC proposal and Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bill that stalled in the Michigan Senate in 2010.

Of course, what we really need is some kind of Michigan Acronym Awareness Association (MAAA).

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Automobile Magazine

The founder and original editor of Automobile Magazine has died. The magazine says the man who was once called "the dean of automotive journalism" died in Ann Arbor, Michigan after complications from bladder cancer surgery.

This from Automobile Magazine Deputy Editor Joe DeMatio:

Davis founded Ann Arbor-based Automobile Magazine with Rupert Murdoch’s backing in 1985 after leaving his second stint in the editor’s chair at Car and Driver, which he moved from New York City to Ann Arbor in 1977.

Davis, who had already refashioned Car and Driver into one of the most literate and entertaining special-interest magazines in America, imagined Automobile Magazine as a celebration of the automotive good life with the rallying cry “No Boring Cars,” but the slogan could just as easily have been applied to everything else in his life:

No boring stories.

No boring meetings.

No boring road trips.

No boring wardrobes.

No boring friends.

No boring employees.

No boring food.

No boring parties.

When he was stuck with boring bosses, he suffered them most reluctantly, and in fact it was his disgust with the management team at CBS, which bought Car and Driver from Ziff-Davis Publishing in the mid-1980s, that propelled him to quit what he had considered the best job in the world, editor-in-chief of Car and Driver.

DeMatio writes that "Davis is survived by his wife, Jeannie, a.k.a. J.L.K., a.k.a. 'the woman who changed my life,' his sons Matthew (himself a well-known automotive journalist) and David III, his daughter, Peg, and his stepdaughter Eleanor, and stepsons Vincent and Tony Kuhn."

Andrew Taylor / Flickr

Gas prices continue to go up in that wake of tensions in the Middle East.

The price of a barrel of crude oil has gone over $100 - that number was a record breaker back in early 2008 - the start of the Great Recession.

From the Associated Press:

Gas prices AAA Michigan says gasoline prices are up 8.4 cents per gallon over the past week to a statewide average of $3.53. The auto club said Monday the statewide average is 80.5 cents per gallon higher than last year at this time. Of the cities it surveys, AAA Michigan says the cheapest price for self-serve regular fuel is in the Saginaw/Bay City area, where it's $3.48 a gallon. The highest average can be found in the Marquette area at $3.59. Dearborn-based AAA Michigan surveys 2,800 Michigan gas stations daily.

The White House chief of staff Bill Daley said on NBC's Meet the Press that opening up the country's strategic oil reserves is an option the Obama Administration is considering:

"It is something that only is done--has been done in very rare occasions.  There's a bunch of factors that have to be looked at, and it is just not the price. Again, the uncertainty--I think there's no one who doubts that the uncertainty in the Middle East right now has caused this tremendous increase in the last number of weeks."

Many people wonder why we're seeing an increase in gas prices when the U.S. imports most of it's oil from Canada and Mexico.

Libya doesn't even make the the U.S. Department of Energy's Top 15 list of countries we import oil from.

The answer, simply, is that oil is a global commodity, so when the global price of crude goes up, we all pay more. Crude oil prices influence the price of gas more than other factors like refining, distribution, and taxes.

How Stuff Works has a write up of how the complex system of gas prices are factored here in the U.S.

They break the cost of a dollar of gas down this way:

  • Taxes: 15 cents
  • Distribution and Marketing: 11 cents
  • Refining: 7 cents
  • Crude oil: 67 cents

You can check gas prices near you on michigangasprices.com.

Potholes are a familiar obstacle on Michigan roads.
Flickr user Michael Gil / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

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.

user myself / wikimedia commons

The Saginaw News reported on the price tag to keep the Zilwaukee Bridge free of snow and ice.

The don't use cheap salt which would result in corrosion of the multi-million dollar bridge. They use a more expensive melting agent - calcium magnesium acetate.

The News reported that the Michigan Department of Transportation used $236,640 worth of the stuff to keep the bridge clear last year:

The Michigan Department of Transportation spent $1,392 a ton to dump 170 tons of calcium magnesium acetate on the 8,000-foot-long bridge on Interstate 75 over the Saginaw River last winter.

Gregg Brunner, manager of the Bay City Transportation Service Center, told the News that MDOT "spends about $800,000 to $1 million a year to maintain the six-lane bridge year round with a four-member crew."

Around 31,000 cars and trucks pass over the bridge daily.

The mile-and-a-half  Zilwaukee Bride had an infamous beginning. It was built so freighters could pass under it on the Saginaw River.

The project was plagued with accidents, "spalling", and the discovery of PCBs. It cost the state $117.5 million to build the bridge and it was opened back in 1988.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Public transportation around Grand Rapids could get a huge boost if voters in the city and 5 suburbs approve a mileage increase set to appear on the ballot in May. If the levy passes, The Rapid CEO Peter Varga says it would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $76 a year.

user Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr

(You can also see this story with more photos on the Changing Gears website)

Half a century after cities across our region and country built sprawling freeways, many of those roads are reaching the end of their useful lives.

Instead of rebuilding them, a growing number of cities are thinking about, or actively, removing them. That may come as a surprise.

When Clevelanders hear that the city plans to convert a coastal freeway into a slower, tree-lined boulevard, you get reactions like this one from Judie Vegh:

“I think it’s a pretty bad idea for commuters,” she said. “And if it were 35 mph, I would just be later than usual.”

Within the next few years, Vegh’s commute on Cleveland’s West Shoreway will likely look very different.

Cleveland City Planner Bob Brown says this is not the traditional highway project, "the traditional highway project is obviously speeding things up, adding more capacity, and often ignoring the character of neighborhoods."

It’s quite a change.

In the 1950s and 60s, freeways were seen as progress and modernity. They were part of urban renewal and planners like New York’s Robert Moses tore through neighborhoods to put up hulking steel and concrete roadways.

Today, cities are looking to take them down.

The list is long:

  • New Orleans
  • New Haven
  • Buffalo
  • Syracuse
  • San Francisco

These are just some US cities thinking about or actively taking freeways down. You can find more information about these projects on the Changing Gears website.

Ambassador Bridge
J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Governor-elect Rick Snyder announced yesterday that he'll keep Kirk Steudle as Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation in his new administration. That could mean continued debate over whether to build a new bridge to connect Detroit to Canada, Laura Weber reports. As Weber explains:

Steudle has drawn heat from Republican lawmakers over the past few years for his support of a second bridge span between Detroit and Canada. The legislators were unhappy with a detailed traffic report from the department, but Steudle says that information will be rolled into continued analysis of the bridge. Governor-elect Snyder says just because he tapped Steudle to continue as director doesn’t mean the bridge will be built. But the discussion will continue.

The proposed Detroit River International Crossing would compete with the Ambassador Bridge.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder is expected to name directors for the state's Department of Transportation and the Michigan State Police later today.

It's believed that Snyder will keep Kirk Steudle on as director of the Michigan Department of Transportation.  Steudle has been the director of the department since 2006.

Snyder is also expected to appoint Kriste Etue as director of the Michigan State Police.  She's currently the deputy director of the state police.

As The Detroit News reports, Etue will be the first woman to head the Michigan State Police:

She will be the second woman named to head a department in the Snyder administration. On Friday, Olga Dazzo was named director of the Department of Community Health.

Snyder is expected to make the announcement of both posts at a news conference today in Lansing.

Amtrak train near Chicago
Steven Vance - Flickr

UPDATE 12/9/2010 3:33pm:

Michigan's been left off the list of state getting more federal money for high speed rail projects.  The New York Times reports:

The biggest winners of Ohio and Wisconsin’s money were California, which will receive another $624 million on top of the nearly $3 billion it has received so far toward the construction of a high-speed train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and Florida, which will get another $342 million on top of the roughly $2 billion it has received to build a high-speed train between Orlando and Tampa.

The other states that will get Ohio and Wisconsin’s money will be Washington, which will get up to $161 million; Illinois, which will get $42.3 million; and Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Vermont, which will all get less than $10 million.

Amtrak engine
Terry Cantrell / Creative Commons

A public forum on the future of trains in Michigan will be held tonight in Monroe.

John Langdon with the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers says college students and senior citizens like trains. He says he hopes everybody else will see that increasing rail service is good for the economy, the environment and their own pocketbook.

Officials under Stadium Avenue bridge in Ann Arbor
Congressmen John Dingell's Office

Congressman John Dingell's office has announced that the federal government will chip in $13.9 million dollars to fix an aging Ann Arbor bridge.

The four lane bridge on Stadium Avenue, which runs past the "Big House," has been down to two lanes because it's so dilapidated.

Chevy Volt's plug receptacle
Charles Manley / Michigan Radio

Senator Carl Levin wants to scrap the government's Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard. Auto manufacturers must meet these fuel economy standards for their fleets, or face penalties from the government.

The Obama Administration recently updated the standards.  By 2020, automakers will have to reach an average 35.5 mpg for their combined car and truck fleet.

Inside the Chevy Volt electric vehicle
Charles Manley / Michigan Radio

The Chevy Volt got one step closer to the showrooms this week. The electric vehicle was unveiled to the media.

News roundup for today

Sep 2, 2010
Newspaper boxes along a street
Susan Lesch / Creative Commons

Illegal oil spill workers caught in Texas

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