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Up North Live: State budget means no repairs to 1,000 bridges

Friday, January 14, 2011   (0 Comments)
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Ninety percent of Michigan’s structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges will not be repaired over the next five years because the state has no money to fix them, according to the latest draft of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) new five-year plan.

The plan also projects that by 2019, two-thirds of MDOT roads will be in poor condition because the state is unable to match the federal dollars available.

"MDOT's draft five-year plan merely highlights what Michigan drivers feel in their bones every time their cars hit a pothole –Michigan’s roads and bridges are failing and the state isn’t investing enough to maintain them," said Mike Nystrom, executive vice president of the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA).

MDOT repaired an average of 240 bridges annually between 2006 and 2011.  But just 35 bridges will be repaired during each of the next five years, leaving more than 1,000 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges without even modest repairs.

Roads fare no better in the draft plan. In 2010, 80 percent of MDOT's roads were in good or fair condition.  However, over the next five years 93 rehabilitation or reconstruction projects comprising 319 miles are slated for cancellation and 700 of 1,400 miles of maintenance will be removed or delayed.

Even if the state somehow comes up with the 20 percent match to get federal money – a key legislative focus – road quality will plummet dramatically, with 50 percent of MDOT roads in poor condition by 2019.

"These alarming trends are not a reflection of inefficiency or poor decision-making by a government agency," said Nystrom.  “We are just expecting the impossible with severely limited dollars.”

The state needs $835 million a year in state transportation funding just to maintain MDOT pavement conditions.

The MDOT road system represents only about 9,700 miles (8 percent) of the state’s entire 120,000-mile transportation network.

MITA offered its comments on the draft plan as part of a formal comment period that expires Wednesday.  Comments on the plan can be e-mailed to

Other notable concerns from MITA's review of the five-year plan:

• By 2015, pavement conditions will deteriorate from 9.6 years of Remaining Surface Life (RSL) to 6.4 years;

• Much-needed road projects conspicuously absent from the 5-year plan include widening of I-75 in Oakland County (M-102 to M-59), reconstruction and widening of U.S. 23 in Washtenaw County (M-14 to I-96), creation of M-231 from Holland to Grand Haven and completion of U.S. 127 between St. Johns and Ithaca.

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