The Michigan Department of Transportation announced today that it will close or consolidate eight offices statewide, leave 60 supervisory positions unfilled and use bond money to help pay down debt in a cost-saving move.
MDOT Transportation Service Center offices in Sterling Heights and Port Huron will be closed and combined into one facility at a yet-unconfirmed location along the I-94 corridor between the two cities, spokesman Jeff Cranson said this afternoon.
In what the department called a major reorganization, MDOT said that by Oct. 1 it also will close similar offices in Cass City in the Thumb, Grayling in northern Michigan, Howard City in west Michigan and Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula, with their duties transferred to other nearby offices. The department also plans to close construction field offices Allen Park and outstate in Tecumseh and Rockford.
Cranson said no MDOT workers will face layoffs because of the cuts, but some will face longer commutes than they have now. The department contends the cuts won’t impact public service and will not reduce the number of road projects the state is capable of funding.
MDOT Director Kirk Steudle said the department now has 15% fewer employees than in did in 2009 -- saving $45 million a year in pay and benefits -- and is making the new reductions to save millions a year, money that may help the state leverage more federal funding for roadwork and other transportation needs.
The moves come as state funding for roadwork shrinks in large part because two primary sources of money – revenue from gas taxes and vehicle registrations – have taken huge hits because of the economic recession and rising automotive fuel efficiency.
MDOT said it will use bonds to reduce debt service payments by $22 million. The closure of the eight offices will save $300,000 a year in rent and utilities alone.
“The changes were are announcing today show our commitment to working better, faster, cheaper, safer and smarter for the benefit of Michigan residents and businesses,” Steudle said in a statement.
The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, a construction trade group in Lansing, praised the reorganization plan announced today at a meeting of the State Transportation Commission in Benton Harbor.
“This plan sets the stage for a long-term transportation funding discussion by demonstrating that taxpayer dollars can be spent responsibly,” said the group’s executive vice president, Mike Nystrom.
MITA has been trying to encourage lawmakers in Lansing and Washington to increase transportation funding to address the state’s problems with aging bridges and roads. But legislators have shown little appetite for raising fuel or other taxes on motorists, and MDOT said it had to make the cuts to adjust.