FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Conan Smith
Friday, December 14, 2001 Land Programs Director
House Paves Way for Better Roads
Enviro’s, Roadbuilders Unite for a Smoother System
LANSING – On unanimous votes, the Michigan House of Representatives Thursday passed two measures that will help direct state road money to the most needy transportation corridors. The measures were recommended by a Gubernatorial study committee and supported by both environmentalists and industry representatives.
House Bill 5383 creates a uniform definition of road maintenance that excludes new construction activities – current law enables the state to spend pothole dollars on road widening. House Bill 5393 implements a statewide asset management strategy, which will help the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) invest its $3 billion budget in the creation of better-maintained and more holistic system.
“MDOT is in sore need of better direction,” said Conan Smith, Land Programs Director at the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC). “Michigan has one of the most unsustainable transportation systems in the country. These bills will help us reprioritize our spending in ways that are both cost-efficient and effective for Michigan motorists and transit riders.”
Environmentalist began advocating for changes to the maintenance definition three years ago when it came to light that more than half of Michigan’s roads had a life expectancy of less than seven years. Research by MEC revealed that road maintenance was among the lowest of MDOT’s priorities.
“Any driver in southeast Michigan can tell you what a disaster the highways are,” Smith said. “For years we built new and wider highways while we let the ones we already had crumble around us.”
Road agencies across the state must use the new definitions and report annual investment figures to the Legislature. The definitions create clear distinctions between reactive or routine maintenance activities – like snow removal and pothole patching – and “preservation” activities such as widening a road to accommodate new traffic.
Environmentalists believe that the new asset management system will help move maintenance and transit investments to their rightful place at the forefront of Michigan’s spending priorities.
“This is a dollars and sense issue,” Smith said. “Road investment decisions today are made without the right data to assure the sustainability of our transportation system as a whole.”
HB5386 creates a council made up of local government representatives and charged with developing a process for addressing data collection, training and planning issues. The asset management council will apparently evaluate only road building and maintenance issues.
“Transit representation is blatantly excluded,” lamented Smith. “Any reform that doesn’t envision a system of 18-lane double-decker highways has got to take transit into account.”
Although supportive of the House proposals, MEC will work to improve the language as it moves through the Michigan Senate.
Land Programs Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912