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Detroit Free Press: Feds' money to hit the road soon; Group warns state could lose its funding

Thursday, July 22, 2010   (0 Comments)
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A road construction industry group is warning that inaction in Lansing will derail dozens of road projects next year and put thousands of road workers out of a job. 


The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association said Wednesday that the Legislature has yet to find a way to cover an $84-million shortfall in money that the state needs as a match for $475 million in federal road funds. The loss of more than $550 million to the state's 2011 roadwork budget will mean more than 90 miles of road repair and 40 bridge projects will be delayed next year alone. 


The Michigan Department of Transportation says it will postpone 375 miles of pavement repairs and 575 bridge fixes statewide from 2011-2014, including rebuilding 7 miles of I-96 in Wayne County, resurfacing 10 miles of I-94 in Macomb County and a new M-59-Crooks Road interchange in Oakland County. 


The stoppage would mean the loss of about 6,000 construction jobs as the state struggles with one of the nation's highest unemployment rates. Mike Nystrom, executive vice president of the construction group, said supporters have warned for 18 months that Michigan risks giving its share of federal money to other states unless it offsets falling fuel-tax and vehicle-registration revenue. 


"It is now becoming a reality," Nystrom said. 


Nystrom said there are competing stop-gap proposals in the Legislature. One would reallocate money from the state's general fund, and another would force MDOT to cut back on maintenance and close freeway welcome centers. 


His group has been pushing for higher gas taxes and vehicle registration fees and an overhaul of road funding. 


But state Rep. Pam Byrnes, D-Chelsea, said those ideas are "not getting much traction" in Lansing, and it's not clear how the state will come up with the $84 million. 


"That's still up in the air," said Byrnes, chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee. "We're still trying to find the money from someplace." 


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