Wake Up Call
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Posted by: Nancy Brown
Lansing, MI -- The Minnesota bridge collapse should serve as a wake-up call to state lawmakers in Lansing to fix the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges, a coalition representing Michigan businesses, local governments and the transportation industry announced today at a press conference. They challenged state policymakers to take immediate action.
“Michigan bridges are rated to be in worse shape than Minnesota’s bridges,” said Mike Nystrom, vice president of government and public relations at the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association and co-chair of the Michigan Transportation Team (MTT). “Twenty-eight percent of Michigan bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, compared to Minnesota’s 12 percent.” According to a report issued in 2006 by The Road Information Program out of Washington, Michigan ranks 3rd worst on the condition of our interstate highway bridges and 10th worst for all bridges. The state’s road conditions create safety concerns for Michigan drivers.
On average, three people lose their lives on Michigan roads every day. Many of these are preventable. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation, every $100 million invested in road improvements can prevent 145 deaths and 5,000 injuries. We don’t need a dramatic bridge collapse in Michigan to see that we are needlessly losing lives here too.
“It would be tragic for Michigan to experience a dramatic bridge collapse similar to what occurred in Minnesota,” said Rich Studley, executive vice president of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “But the reality is that such an incident could happen here. The time for action is now.”
MTT urged Michigan leaders to support the comprehensive plan to make roads and bridges throughout Michigan safer, repair deteriorating streets, and relieve traffic congestion in rapidly growing communities. The plan, which has been pending in the Michigan Legislature since April, would increase the state's gasoline tax three cents a year for three years and also bring diesel taxes in line with regular gasoline. Currently, Michigan's gas tax is one of the lowest in the nation. In addition to gas and diesel tax increases, the plan also includes an adjustment in the vehicle registration fee.
"All elected local and state officials take an oath to protect the public health and safety of all of our residents,” said Vicki Barnett, mayor of Farmington Hills and president of the Michigan Municipal League. “Minnesota should be a wake-up call to all Michigan elected local and state officials. Michigan needs to act quickly to get resources in place to protect Michigan residents."
Without any changes, the pending transportation budget slated for approval will only make matters worse. From 2007 to 2009, Michigan will experience a 40 percent drop in money available to fix state roads.
The nation has seen in dramatic fashion what can happen when we let our infrastructure crumble and fail to find funding solutions. “What’s a far more serious concern is that over a dozen people lose their lives quietly every week on Michigan’s deteriorating roads while no one seems to notice,” said John Niemela, director of the County Road Association of Michigan.
“We challenge state lawmakers and the governor to approve a transportation funding increase by the time they adopt the 2008 budget,” Studley added. “Anything less is unacceptable.”
“We’re seeing this tragic incident as a wake up call,” Nystrom said. “It’s time to stop hitting the snooze button.”
The Michigan Transportation Team (MTT) is a broad-based, bi-partisan partnership of business, labor, local government, associations and citizens linked with the common goal of improving Michigan’s transportation infrastructure. The DriveMI campaign is committed to promoting the development and maintenance of a safe, convenient and efficient transportation network that serves the public, private and economic development needs of Michigan.
Other Press Contacts: John Niemela: 517-482-1189, County Road Association of Michigan; Rich Studley: 517-371-2100, Michigan Chamber of Commerce; Vicki Barnett: 248-227-0945, Mayor of Farmington Hills & President of Michigan Municipal League