Report: Michigan doesn’t have money to fix deteriorating roads

March 12, 2019

Detroit Free Press

Kristi Tanner


The report, published by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based transportation group, examined legislation that will help increase state transportation funding from $2.2 billion in 2015 to almost $3.7 billion by 2023 and found that despite the increase, many crucial transportation projects remain unfunded.

Some of the TRIP report findings presented at the Detroit Regional Chamber on Tuesday include:

  • The total cost to motorists for driving on Michigan roads in poor conditions is about $14.1 billion each year when additional factors besides wear and tear are considered, like insurance, lost time and poor road design.
  • Among urban areas examined by TRIP, motorists in Detroit had the highest wear-and-tear costs, or vehicle operating costs, per driver at $824.
  • The percentage of federal-aid eligible roads and highways in Michigan with pavement in poor condition increased from 25 percent in 2006 to 40 percent in 2017, according to the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC).
  • Statewide, 11 percent of bridges were structurally deficient, meaning at least one of the major elements of the bridge was in poor condition or worse in 2017. Nationwide, that figure was 9 percent in the same year.
  • About 43 percent of bridges in Michigan, 4,815 structures, were built in 1969 or earlier.
  • Michigan’s traffic fatality rate of 1.01 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was below the national rate of 1.16 in 2017.

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Report: Michigan’s roads, bridges rapidly deteriorating

The Detroit News 

By Shawn Lewis 

April 4, 2017 

Michigan’s roads and bridges will get worse over the next half decade despite a boost in infrastructure funding from the Legislature, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report conducted by TRIP, a Washington D.C.-based national transportation advocacy organization, looks at what has happened with roads and bridges since lawmakers in 2015 approved expanded funding for roads.

The TRIP report says 20 percent of state-maintained roads were in poor condition in 2016 and are expected to deteriorate significantly over the next three years, projecting 46 percent will be in poor condition by 2020.

“About one in 10 bridges in Michigan are structurally deficient,” said Rocky Moretti, director of policy and research for TRIP.

According to the report, the Michigan Department of Transportation estimates the number of bridges rated in poor condition will increase by 50 percent between 2016 and 2023. This means the number of bridges in poor condition will increase from 236 to 354 in that time frame.

According to the report, funding for state state roads, bridges and transit will increase from $2.2 billion in 2015 to nearly $3.4 billion in 2023.

The 28-page report says despite the 2015 funding boost, numerous needed transportation projects in Michigan remain unfunded.

The value of these needed transportation projects is $3.3 billion, including $2 billion in Metro Detroit, $483 million in the Lansing area and $234 million in the Grand Rapids area, according to TRIP.

The list of unfunded projects in the Metro Detroit area include: reconstruction of Interstate 94, from I-96 to Wyoming, at a cost of $110.5 million; M-10, Griswold to M-3, for resurfacing at a cost of $15.8 million; and U.S. 12, from Rosa Parks to Cass, for reconstruction and overlay at a cost of $14.8 million.

Tuesday’s press conference where the report was released was held at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the chamber, said the business community has been focused on transportation needs for decades.

“We still have a long way to go because we all know the condition of our roads is severely damaging our ability to progress economically,” Williams said. “While we made a down payment two years ago, our infrastructure requires more funding.”

He said the 20 percent of Michigan roads already in poor condition is 20 percent too much.

“The lack of investment costs us in time, repairs and in customers,” he said.

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Planet M: Orbiting Michigan’s Mobility Future

Michigan gets aggressive in mobility space 

By Tom Walsh 

In a world gone manic over myriad mobility options, can the Motor City and its home state still be the epicenter of technology and innovation in cars, trucks and other transit modes? It is a big question that is critical to Michigan’s economic future.

To address it, there is an all-out offensive taking shape to make the case that the Detroit region has the right stuff — assets, talent, policies, resolve — to maintain, and even enhance, its status as a global mobility hub.

“No place else in the U.S. has anywhere near the testing and research assets we have,” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Michigan led the nation in connected vehicle projects in 2015 with 49. California came in second with 35. Along with MICHauto and Michigan’s top research universities and state agencies, Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM) launched the Michigan Mobility Initiative in 2015.

“There’s a lot more work in front of us,” said BLM president Doug Rothwell. “But I feel as good about this as I do about anything right now.”

In mid-2016, Initiative partners launched “Planet M,” a new branding campaign announced by Gov. Rick Snyder at the 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference to tout the state’s engineering talent. Its tagline: “Michigan. Where big ideas in mobility are born.”

Planet M aims to dispel not only Detroit’s old “rust belt” image, but also the perception of Michigan’s own young people and parents, from a 2014 survey by Intellitrends, that the auto industry does not offer good growth prospects.

“That’s changing,” said Tim Yerdon, auto supplier Visteon’s global director of marketing and communications, who also chairs the MICHauto talent committee. “Right now, auto tech is cool again. In 2008-09, it wasn’t. People were running away. Now they’re running back to it.”

As part of the Planet M effort, MICHauto is commissioning another perception study of young people. Another plus for the state’s image could be the recent overwhelming passage in the Michigan Legislature of bills that allow for testing of driverless vehicles on roadways.

“I’ve been contacted by three other states asking if I could send copies of our draft legislation,” said Kirk Steudle, head of the Michigan Department of Transportation. “We’re influencing the public policy debate across the country, giving an alternative to the California model, which is very overly regulated.”

However promising Michigan’s offensive on the mobility front may sound, new twists are likely looming over the horizon.

Just look back to eight years ago, amid a turbulent transition from one U.S. president to another. Michigan’s signature automotive industry was on the verge of collapse.

General Motors and Chrysler were on life support, sustained by federal cash infusions approved by outgoing President George W. Bush. Soon they would be pushed into Chapter 11 bankruptcies by President Obama. Things looked dire at the time.

What transpired instead was a surprisingly speedy revival. “Michigan-based auto companies went from zero to hero’ in record time,” noted Detroit Regional Chamber President Sandy Baruah, who served under President Bush during the crisis.

While the comeback numbers were impressive, threats to the traditional auto industry business model and especially to Detroit’s place of prominence as a global hub of automotive innovation would soon be apparent. New innovators were sprouting far away from Michigan, including:

Tesla Motors produced its first low volume roadster in 2008, then showed its first prototype of an all-electric Model S in 2009. It opened a huge “gigafactory” to make lithium-ion batteries in Nevada earlier this year.

Google launched a self-driving car project in 2009 in California, later partnered quietly with Livonia-based Roush Enterprises to build prototype cars a few years later, and recently announced a partnership with FCA to develop self-driving minivans.

Uber Technologies, founded in 2009 as a ride-sharing app called UberCab, teamed up last year with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh on self-driving car research. And now San Francisco based Uber is planning a research center in metro Detroit to work with auto suppliers on autonomous car technologies.

No telling what turns may lie ahead.

In June, Detroit came up empty in the $40 million Smart City Challenge created by the Obama administration to link self-driving cars with sensors and other technologies in a city’s transportation network. Columbus, Ohio was the winner. Detroit wasn’t even among the seven finalists.

While Detroit may have valid reasons for being an “also-ran” in the Smart City Challenge, it goes to show that there are plenty of eager, aggressive cities that covet some of the leadership cachet that Detroit and Michigan have enjoyed as America’s automotive capital for so long.

Steudle put the mobility race this way: “While we’ve been moving quite aggressively in Michigan on these mobility issues, they’re moving quite aggressively in California, and in Florida and in Texas,” he said. “We really have to keep our foot on the gas.”

Tom Walsh is a former columnist for the Detroit Free Press.