by Scott McClallen
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced 21 state highway projects for the 2021 construction season.
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) projects are funded through its budget and the $3.5 billion Rebuilding Michigan bonding program.
Whitmer announced the projects on Tuesday.
“This is all about keeping Michigan drivers safe on the road,” Whitmer said in a statement. “By taking action now through the Rebuilding Michigan plan, we can start fixing state roads immediately and save money in the long run by cutting down the need for more costly repairs later. The Rebuilding Michigan plan is financed without an increase at the gas pump, and it’ll help jumpstart our economy by creating thousands of good-paying construction jobs.”
The program aims to rebuild the state highways and bridges that carry the most traffic.
“The heavy construction industry stands ready, willing and able to tackle the construction projects that Governor Whitmer’s Rebuilding Michigan plan will deliver,” Lance Binoniemi, vice president of government affairs for the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, said in a statement. “Michigan’s roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair, and this will go a long way towards supporting that need.”
Projects starting or resuming in March include:
- Continuation of a $121.5 million investment to rebuild I-94 Business Loop, connect US-31 to I-94, and rebuild I-94 between Britain Avenue and I-196 in Benton Township, Berrien County.
- Rebuilding 3.4 miles of M-3 (Gratiot Avenue) between 11 Mile and 14 Miles roads in Roseville, investing $60 million over two years.
- $24 million to make extensive improvements to six bridges at the US-31/M-104 interchange in Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg in Ottawa County.
- Rebuilding 12 miles of southbound I-196 from Holland to Saugatuck/Douglas in Allegan County. This $34 million investment includes road rebuilding, culvert replacements, bridge improvements, and replacing the Saugatuck Rest Area.
- Significant improvements to 16 bridges along the I-75/US-23 corridor in Genesee County, including steel beam repairs, deck replacements and protective epoxy coating. This $12.3 million investment extends the service life of these structures.
- Rebuilding six miles of M-37 south of US-31 to M-113 south of Traverse City. This nearly $9 million project includes widening the highway for a center left-turn lane and new roundabouts at the intersections with Vance and Blair Townhall roads.
- Resumption of a $12.5 million project to replace two bridges on M-26 over the east and west branches of the Firesteel River in Ontonagon County.
Dozens of other road and bridge rebuilding projects are planned for the 2021 construction season.
“MDOT’s 2021 program includes rebuilding and resurfacing roughly 920 lane miles of state highways and freeways, and performing preventative maintenance on another 830 lane miles throughout Michigan,” State Transportation Director Paul C. Ajegba said in a statement. “Our department is working quickly to turn the additional funding we’ve been entrusted with into better, safer roads and bridges that support our economy and thousands of jobs.”
In Jan. 2020, The State Transportation Commission authorized MDOT to issue $3.5 billion in bonds over four years to finance infrastructure improvements, under authority granted by the Michigan Constitution and Public Act 51 of 1951. Funding raised through bond sales will finance 49 new projects statewide and temporarily frees up funding for roughly 120 other projects.
Critics point out bonding is borrowing that only pushes debt onto future taxpayers. The state is still trying to pay off roughly $1.1 billion in transportation debt from over a decade ago, and the $3.5 billion additional bonding will cost taxpayers more than $5 billion.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.