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State to test more durable road construction this year

Doug Kerr
Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM
Interstate 94

New Michigan roadways may soon be getting the green light. 

This comes after the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) released a report earlier this year, announcing pilot projects to test better and longer-lasting road construction.

The report was presented to legislators this month. Gov. Snyder signed a $1.2 billion road improvement bill in 2015 that recommended the state study new ways to build roads.

The state initially estimated that new pavement could cost anywhere from 50-150% more than current roadways. But some experts believe reduced maintenance costs and longer road life could balance the expense. 

MDOT spokesman Jeff Cranson says the pilot projects will focus on rebuilding stretches near Grand Rapids and Flint that already need improvement.

Cranson says the goal is to determine whether building new, more durable--and initially, more expensive--roads is more cost-effective than continuing to repair existing ones in the long run. "The idea is to  find out long term whether you can save money by building longer-lasting roads," he says.

Cranson also believes that higher costs will translate to higher quality roads for drivers as well. "Everything that people know from building super highways for 60 or 70 years now is that you get what you pay for," he says. "We know that if you spend considerably more, that you can probably get more out of it."

Some believe that uniformly limiting road costs long term won't be easy.

Lance Binoniemi is a spokesman for the Michigan Transportation and Infrastructure Association, a group representing contractors and road workers. He believes many areas will still end up paying more with  better material. 

"It's a very complex issue because you have variables like soil conditions and different weight limits on each road," Bioniemi says."The only way to build longer lasting roads is to build a deeper base" with more materials, "which costs more money."

Mateus DeFaria is a Senior at the University of Michigan majoring in Political Science. Born and raised just outside of Los Angeles, he came to school in the midwest in efforts to expand his horizons and tackle new challenges far away from home (which may have at one time included learning how to do laundry).
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