Road-fixing funds slowly dribble out
LANSING – Gov. Rick Snyder has called for spending an additional $1.4 billion a year to repair Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges. Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle wants more, since that estimate to keep Michigan roads in relatively good condition is two years old.
The state’s Republican-led House and Senate have been loathe to increase fees or gasoline taxes to improve the state’s roads, but additional funds are slowly being found. On March 12, the House and Senate approved a mid-year budget supplemental that would bring $215 million in new funding for roads. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed the law approving the new funds two days later.
From that money, the Legislature allocated $100 million for winter maintenance and $115 million for road repairs. More than one editorial around the state called the allocation “a drop in the bucket.”
“It’s a good start.” “We have a problem with that.” “This is the best we could do right now.” Those quotes, via the MIRS News Service, are from Rep. Wayne Schmidt, (R-Traverse City), Sen. Glenn Anderson (D-Westland) and the chair of the House Appropriations Committee Rep. Joe Haveman (R-Holland).
Schmidt, for one, says his preferred amount is closer to $1 billion, but finding the money is of course, the problem. He said he is looking at existing revenues to be allocated to roads.
MDOT’s Steudle has been saying for years that the longer Michigan lawmakers wait to seriously commit to making road repairs, the worse the roads are going to get. And this spring, there isn’t a motorist in the state who would argue.
Shovel work starts at MSU’s FRIB
EAST LANSING – The shiny shovels and hard hats were out in force on March 17, as ground was broken on the $730 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) project at Michigan State University.
MSU estimates the project will create about 180 jobs at FRIB and another 200 in related industries in the next 10 years. The research is expected to help 1,500 scientists discover applications in medicine, national security and biology. Prep work had been done at the site, but in January Congress OK’d $55 million for the FRIB, which made the groundbreaking possible.
The facility will produce intense beams of rare isotopes, allowing research in a number of areas.
“FRIB will be the core of our nation’s research infrastructure, advancing knowledge in areas such as science, medicine and homeland security, as well as providing answers to questions we have even yet to conceive,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “This facility also will be a training ground for the world’s next generation of nuclear physicists and attract scientists and engineers from all corners of the earth, securing MSU’s position as the driver in the knowledge economy.”