GENESEE COUNTY — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has forged ahead with a $3.5 billion bond proposal that will address major freeway projects across the state but leave out local roads.
During her State of the State address held last month, Whitmer announced that she would be asking the State Transportation Commission (STC) to issue state road bonds to fix crumbling highways and bridges. Whitmer had initially proposed to fix state roads through a 45-cent per gallon gas tax increase, but that plan was rejected by the Republican-led State Legislature last year.
On Jan. 30, the STC approved the sale of $3.5 billion in road and bridge-building bonds, which will be paid for over a fiveyear period. The STC also authorized the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to sell the bonds to complete 49 projects involving state-owned freeways and bridges.
“Michigan has the worst roads in the nation, and the longer we wait to fix them, the more expensive it will get,” Whitmer said. “That’s why I’m rolling up my sleeves now and getting to work fixing our state roads and freeways.”
Although Whitmer’s plan has received praise from the STC and MDOT, several state GOP leaders have raised concerns that the road bonds are not an effective long-term solution and will saddle the state with debt.
“We included $400 million in funding for roads and bridges in the balanced budget we presented the governor last year and she (Whitmer) vetoed it,” said State Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly). “Now, she wants to pull out the credit card.
“We’re already paying $118 million a year in debt service on bonds from when Governor (Jennifer) Granholm was here and even before that,” Johnson continued. “Why veto almost $400 million in road funding and then turn around and borrow billions?”
Other lawmakers have pointed out that while the governor’s Rebuilding Michigan plan focuses on high volume freeways and non-freeway roads, none of the proposed bond money will be flowing to local governments or road commissions.
“Our infrastructure issues are not limited to highways, they start as soon as we pull out of our driveways,” said Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Linden). “We need to direct funding to local municipalities to get our roads on track.”
Randall Dellaposta, Director of Operations for the Genesee County Road Commission (GCRC), said that he would prefer to see a road repair plan that streamlines more funds to local agencies.
“We have a looming crisis with local roads that we are trying to repair, and there is a dire need for resurfacing and chip seal on many roads,” he said. “The road bonds are a smart and cost-effective way to fix the state’s highways but they would not have any impact or effect on local, city or village roads.”
According to MDOT Spokesperson Jocelyn Hall, road bond money is authorized to fix trunk lines and major freeways but cannot be approved to fund local road projects. However, Hall said that six future MDOT projects along I-475 and I-69 in Genesee County will be receiving an allotment of the bond money (see the sidebar for project details).
“Genesee County alone has $200 million worth of investment as a result of the bonding,” Hall said. “The bonds will jumpstart projects that have already been planned but have been lagging.”
Hall said that three of Genesee County’s highway projects will involve significant rebuilding: I-475 from Thread Creek to the Flint River, I-475 from Bristol Road to Thread Creek and from the Flint River to Carpenter Road; and I-69 from Fenton Road to M-54.
MDOT will also be performing overlay/epoxy maintenance on nine bridges within the I-69/I-475 Interchange; deck replacement on six bridges within the I-69/I-475 interchange; and bridge replacement on I-475 over Stever Avenue and Broadway Boulevard in Flint.
Here is a summary of future freeway/interstate projects in Genesee County that will be covered by the $3.5 billion road bond proposal:
I-69 from Fenton Road to M-54 will undergo a rebuild, starting in 2021. Cost: $54.2 million. nine bridges within the I-475/I-69 interchange will receive overlay/epoxy maintenance in 2021. Cost: $14.9 million. six bridges within the I-69/I-475 interchange will receive deck replacements in 2021. Cost: $13.1 million.
MDOT will complete a bridge replacement on I-475 over Stever Avenue and Broadway Boulevard in 2022. Cost: $13.1 million.
I-475 from Thread Creek to Flint River will undergo a rebuild starting in 2022. Cost: $84 million.
MDOT will begin a rebuild of I-475 from Bristol Road to Thread Creek and from Flint River to Carpenter Road in 2024. Cost: $116 million.