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Michigan Information and Research Service: Michigan's Bad Roads Go National

Tuesday, June 23, 2009   (0 Comments)
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To the rest of the country, Michigan is seen as being synonymous with the automobile. The birthplace of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, Detroit and Michigan are known as a place where people take a lot of pride in their cars and trucks. 


Yet, the roads these cars drive on have fallen in such disrepair they're being turned back to gravel in some areas. 


It's a piece of irony that the writer of the History Channel's "The Crumbling of America," which airs tonight (June 22) at 9 p.m., said was so striking an entire documentary could be made on the devolving situation. 


Documentary writer Henry Schipper said the plight of Michigan's deteriorating roads is prominently mentioned. He regrets that more footage wasn't taken in the Mitten State and that more time wasn't dedicated to how bad the state's roads are. However, the feature needed to keep its national focus. 


"We could have done the whole show in Detroit," said Schipper, whose family moved from the city when he was 12. "The most extreme problems with infrastructure that cropped up nationally came from Michigan and Detroit in particular, but we couldn't spend too much time with it or our viewers would have discounted it as, 'Oh, that's just Detroit.'" 


Schipper, now of Los Angeles, said the producers of the show hired a Chicago crew to spend some time in a pair of small Michigan towns in Berrien County and found "some pretty good visuals." 


But he said by the time he and the producers realized the extent of the problem throughout Michigan, and in particular the state's busier roads, the show was too far along in the production process to re-shoot areas in metro Detroit. 


"Whenever you hear of Michigan, you think of it as the pride and glory of the auto industry and here they can't even protect its primary asset," Schipper said. "You just get this impression that something has gone horribly wrong." 


Tonight's program on the nation's crumbling infrastructure is divided up into acts: "bridges, roads, etc." One entire act is devoted to roads and producers debated about whether to dedicate that entire act to Michigan. 


"We came close to (doing that) because of that irony," he said. "This is the best road story in the country, what's happening in Michigan." 


The Michigan Transportation Team (MTT), which is lobbying the Legislature to change the gas tax from one based on a flat 19 cents per gallon to a percentage-based system in order to raise more road money, highlighted The Crumbling of America in a press release today. 


A study done by the Michigan Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave Michigan's roads and bridges a D rating, noting 38 percent of Michigan's roads are in poor condition and 28 percent of Michigan's bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. 


"We were even contacted to provide more footage of our deteriorating roadways after they wrapped filming," said MTT Co-Chair Mike Nystrom. "If this isn't a wake up call to our legislators, I don't know what is."

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