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Legislators Face Last Chance to Fix Roads

Wednesday, December 17, 2008   (0 Comments)
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Legislators have one day left to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges, or the state will lose over 17,000 jobs, risk the immediate cancellation of hundreds of state and local projects, and would jeopardize $2 billion in federal transportation funds over the next four years. The delay would also force the continued dangerous reductions in statewide snow plowing already being felt by Michigan’s beleaguered motorists.

“Our elected officials need to act now; Michigan’s roads and bridges cannot wait another day for legislators to take action,” said Mike Nystrom, vice president of government and public relations for the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA). The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) recently announced the pending cancellation of 246 road and bridge projects in their five-year plan if no further funding is made available.

A series of bills providing the framework for needed reforms were passed by the House on December 10. The House and Senate must now fill in the specific details of the investment proposal by the end of Thursday or face months of additional delays.

The MITA transportation investment plan calls on the state to get rid of the per-gallon gas and diesel tax and replace it with a percentage tax based on the wholesale price of fuel. The plan also calls for the adjustment of vehicle registration fees and closing various loopholes. The bills pending in the Legislature are House Bills 4577, 6749, 6750 and 6752.

Groups calling for a transportation investment package this week include the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, County Road Association of Michigan, Operating Engineers Local 324 and numerous newspaper editorial boards across the state. The effort has few detractors, but has come under fire this week from the petroleum industry.

“Big oil has been gouging motorists and lining their pockets with multi-billion dollar profits, and yet they are the first to criticize a plan that ultimately will be an economic stimulus package for the entire state of Michigan,” Nystrom said. “The MITA plan will not only help repair and improve our transportation system, thus making it safer for our citizens, but it will create thousands of jobs for the people of our state at a time when they are most needed.”

The recently released Transportation Funding Task Force (TF2) report said that the effects of “doing nothing” could equate to a loss of over 17,000 jobs. The report also notes that almost half of all Michigan roads will be considered in poor condition within 10 years, and no new roads or bridges will be built for capacity improvements. In addition, the effects of Michigan’s struggling transportation infrastructure have been felt by residents across Michigan this winter as snow removal and salting services have been drastically cut in counties across the state.

“These consequences are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what will happen to this state if we do not provide adequate funding for transportation,” Nystrom said.

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