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State House OKs $175 million for roads

A crumbling road with a large pothole in the asphalt
Chris UK
Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

Lawmakers in Lansing want to put $175 million toward fixing the state’s roads. The state House passed the spending bill today.

Governor Rick Snyder initially proposed a similar spending bump for the next budget cycle. But lawmakers say the potholes and crumbling roads need to be addressed as soon as possible. They want the money available in time for construction season.

“I think that this is kind of a perfect time for us to say, ‘Hey, we’ll get this money out to you in the communities and the counties. You can plan for your projects. So as soon as you guys start wanting to put a shovel in the ground, you’re ready to go,” said bill sponsor, Representative Laura Cox, R-Livonia.

The bill passed unanimously, but Democrats say this still isn’t enough to make meaningful improvements to the state’s roads.

“Even though this is more money, it’s not enough to really begin to solve the problems of our roads,” said leader of the House Democrats, Sam Singh, D-East Lansing. “So roads are actually going to get worse, they’re going to continue to get worse, until this body decides to take a serious look at how we do infrastructure spending here in the state of Michigan.”

The money would send over $38 million to cities and villages across the state. The rest would be distributed county road commissions, which would get about $68.4 million, and state trunk line preservation and next generation technologies and service delivery, which would get another $68.4 million. The money that stays within the Department of Transportation would mainly be used for road preservation, with up to $15 million set aside for special projects. One project could be to test the state’s ability to partner with ride share companies for transportation options for the elderly or disabled.

According to the Department of Transportation, it costs an average of $3.2 million to reconstruct one lane of one mile of freeway. But when it comes to local roads, it’s cheaper – a non-freeway mile costs about $1.9 million to reconstruct, whereas rehabilitation is about $500,000 on average. When it comes to rural roads, average reconstruction is about $1.2 million, with $500,000 for rehabilitation.

The money used is unspent from a previous budget cycle – so it doesn’t require an increase in taxes. A spokesperson for the Senate majority leader says their chamber might take up the bill next week.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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