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Michigan Department of Transportation

Rush our traffic on US-23
YouTube Screen grab / MDOT

The Michigan Department of Transportation is planning to extend its only flex route in the state.

What is a flex route?

“The flex route system is a lane control system they use with cameras and electronic message boards to let drivers know when an additional lane is available for use during peak hours,” said department spokesperson Aaron Jenkins.

toll road.  This shows the two common methods of collection of tolls: toll booth (on right) and electronic toll collection (on left).
Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Department of Transportation will hire an outside firm to study the potential of converting some freeways into toll roads. That’s under state Senate Bill 517 signed Wednesday by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The governor is looking for ways to generate more revenue to fix roads. Legislative leaders rejected Whitmer’s call for a gas tax increase to pay for road repairs. But some GOP lawmakers have expressed an interest in toll roads. The bill to study tolls as an option was sponsored by state Senator John Bizon (R-Battle Creek).

A white house sinks down a sand dune into Lake Michigan
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Record high water levels in the Great Lakes are wreaking havoc on Michigan’s shorelines. Dramatic erosion along the shore has put both private homes and public infrastructure at risk. Randy Claypool, aerial videographer and owner of Truly Michigan Aerial, captured footage that shows just how severe erosion is along Lake Michigan.

A sign in Ann Arbor warns passing drivers of a massive pothole in the road.
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

It is a fact universally acknowledged that Michigan has terrible roads.

Well, unless you are state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), who said this month that he is not convinced there is a need for new road spending.

While there are a lot of arguments to be had about how to actually fix the roads by politicians and policy advisors and opinion columnists, there are some facts about Michigan’s roads that are indisputable.

Michigan Department of Transportation

Ongoing erosion is threatening the main road connecting southeast Michigan to the Thumb.

Photo Courtesy of Laura Griskiewicz Rzanca and findagrave.com

 

Today, in the spirit of Halloween, we bring you two different segments on the Minnie Quay ghost story and its historical roots. Plus, Kirk Steudle joins Stateside on his last day as director of the Michigan Department of Transportation to discuss what he's learned about the intersection of infrastructure and politics. 

striped safety cones on a road
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A massive $110 million road construction project kicks off Monday on a nine mile stretch of I-94 in the Jackson area.

The Michigan Department of Transportation plans to reconstruct 1.4 miles of freeway between Lansing Avenue and Elm Road, resurface 3.5 miles between Lansing Avenue and M-60, and resurface four miles between Elm Road and Sargent Road.

There are also plans to redesign the I-94/Cooper Street interchange and replace a bridge that runs over the Grand River.

cars on a highway
Joe Shlabotnik / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Michigan police and the state Department of Transportation are working to stop wrong-way drivers.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the Transportation Department has been installing better signs, new lane guides and modifying exit ramps. Officials are concentrating efforts in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

speed limit sign
Famartin / Wikimedia Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The speed limit on rural highways throughout Michigan will be lifted to 75 mph as soon as next week.

The Michigan Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that 600 miles of interstate will increase from 65 to 75 mph limits, and 900 miles of non-interstate highway will increase from 55 to 65 mph. 

Doug Kerr / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

New Michigan roadways may soon be getting the green light. 

This comes after the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) released a report earlier this year, announcing pilot projects to test better and longer-lasting road construction.

The report was presented to legislators this month. Gov. Snyder signed a $1.2 billion road improvement bill in 2015 that recommended the state study new ways to build roads.

striped safety cones on a road
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A two-year-long construction project on I-75 will complicate things for some Detroit-area commuters.

Southbound I-75 will close from Springwells street in Detroit to Northline Road in Southgate starting Saturday.

The construction project looks to make improvements to the Rouge River Bridge, fix patches of rough concrete, and increase safety on the highway through technological advancements.

Today marks the beginning of MDOT's $1.3 billion project to reconstruct I-75.
Flickr user Bill Lund / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

 

The Michigan Department of Transportation began its reconstruction of I-75 in Oakland County today. The plan is estimated to take until 2030 and an estimated $1.3 billion.

 

Rob Morosi from the Michigan Department of Transportation and Nick Schroeck, director of the Transnational Environmental Law Clinic, joined us today to discuss the plan.

cars on a highway
Joe Shlabotnik / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Automakers spend a lot of time and money touting the safety features of their vehicles, all of which have dramatically improved safety for drivers and passengers.

But despite greater and more advanced safety measures, the National Safety Council tells us America is on track to have its highest traffic death toll since 2007, when over 41,000 people died on our country’s roads.

January I-94 wreck may be an environmental threat

Jul 9, 2015
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The remains of a January car wreck that left one person dead and others seriously injured on Interstate-94 may still pose environmental concerns.

The nearly 200-vehicle pileup included dozens of tankers hauling toxic materials ranging from 40,000 pounds of fireworks to 44,600 pounds of formic acid – a corrosive and a severe inhalation hazard.

Mark Ducharme is an incident manager at Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality. He remembers the accident as “the largest multi-vehicle collision that Michigan has had on an interstate.”  

The I-96/23 Interchange only approximates a "Thunderdome." To find the real thing, you would, of course, have to go Burning Man.
Matthew Gordon / Flickr

The I-96/US 23 highway interchange can be like Thunderdome - two cars enter, one car leaves.

But that's about to change.

MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) is set to make what it calls "major safety and operational improvements" to how cars and trucks merge and exit the two major highway systems next month.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Amtrak riders in Grand Rapids will notice a huge difference the next time they board a train. A new $6 million station opened today.

Grand Rapids' old Amtrak station was tiny, dingy and outdated.

Tim Hefner, director of Michigan Department of Transportation’s office of rail, says the old station was supposed to be a temporary one when it was built almost 30 years ago.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony Monday, state and local officials cracked jokes about the old “Am-shack."

By now coverage of last week’s Detroit area flooding has receded. For now, many of us have temporarily forgotten about how bad the potholes were last winter. We are trying, after all, to enjoy the last few days of summer.

However, roads, unlike little boys with scraped knees, don’t heal themselves.

When I was a kid I remember being told that the best thing you could do for a scraped knee was to spit on it.

This is actually not true. Most people know this by now, especially if you’ve ever taken a personal hygiene class. There are a lot more dangerous myths out there, however.

One of which is that we can’t afford to fix our infrastructure.

The fact is that in sheer dollars-and-cents terms we can’t afford not to. This weekend I talked to Jeff Cranson, the head of communications for MDOT, the Michigan Department of Transportation.

I asked him to help me get some hard, cold numbers about the cost of both repairing the roads and also the costs of not doing so.

MDOT

Monday’s floods may have caused serious damage to Michigan’s busiest highway interchange.

Diane Cross is a Michigan Department of Transportation spokeswoman. She says there are concerns about safety of the I-75 road surface at I-696.

“It looks like the road is fine,” says Cross, “but you can see where the substructure has already eroded away. We’re not sure it can hold any weight.”

Cross says it may take a few days to return the interchange to service, but it could be a week or longer, depending on the extent of the damage.

Lex Dodson / via Instagram

Late yesterday afternoon, it started raining hard over much of southeast Michigan.

When it finally let up over 3 hours later, a record-breaking 4.57 inches of rain had fallen at Detroit Metro Airport. Some spots got even more.

According to WDIV meteorologist Paul Gross, it was “one of the heaviest single rainfall totals in Detroit weather history.”

The National Weather Service had anticipated heavy afternoon showers, and warned of possible flooding in some areas.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

As state lawmakers look to boost investment in Michigan's roads, transit advocates are calling on Lansing not to forget the state’s public transportation systems.

House Speaker Jase Bolger has proposed legislation that would reconfigure gas taxes and add other measures to raise about $450 million a year for road repairs. On Tuesday, Senate Majority leader Randy Richardville said he wants to triple that amount to about $1.5 billion.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

County road commissioners meeting in Lansing today heard from a Pennsylvania transportation official on how Michigan can spend more money on its crumbling roads.

Bradley Mallory is the executive deputy secretary of Pennsylvania’s transportation department.

His state recently passed a $2.3 billion road spending plan. The plan includes a higher gas tax and other fees.

Mallory says like Michigan, Pennsylvania lawmakers know they have to do something to fix their roads.

There are more than 70 virtual currencies in the marketplace.

You may have heard of the biggest players: Bitcoin, Ripples, and Litecoin, which are taking out the middleman and reinventing the meaning of money. The idea is gaining momentum among college students. Today, we heard how virtual money is opening doors for young Michigan entrepreneurs.

Then, school districts around the nation and right here in Michigan are talking about ways to accommodate transgender students. The ACLU of Michigan's LGBT Project (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) is already working on model policies.

And we spoke with some talented Michigan musicians about how their EP (extended play recording) reached No. 2 on the iTunes electronic charts with virtually no promotion.

Road in need of repair.
Peter Ito / Flickr

As the winter of 2013-2014 drags on, we're really seeing what it's done to our roads.

Patching crews try in vain to keep up with a bumper crop of potholes. More and more of us are losing tires, blowing the suspension as we bang into one of those gaping potholes.

And keep in mind, Michigan's roads were crumbling before this winter.

With more winter to go, we wondered where our roads stand and what needs to happen in Lansing to do what it takes to repair and maintain the roads.

Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle knows all too well what this winter has done to the pavement, and he joined us today. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Drivers beware, warns MDOT director

Feb 13, 2014
net_efekt / Flickr

Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, says the harsh winter will make the pothole situation in Michigan this spring the worst we’ve seen in our lifetime. He testified this week before the state House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation.

Joining us to talk roads are Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

More money for Michigan transportation projects?
user theed17 / wikimedia commons

The Michigan Department of Transportation is asking businesses whether they’re interested in partnering with the state for certain projects. That could include taking over the building, operating, or financing of infrastructure projects from the state.

Joe Pavona is Governor Rick Snyder’s special advisor on public-private partnerships.

“I think that this is the direction of the future, and I think is consistent with providing improved customer service and value for Michigan,” he says.

Lawmakers in Lansing are debating how to boost transportation spending by more than a billion dollars a year. Pavona says including private businesses in transportation projects could save the state money and time.

But Michigan’s largest state employees union doesn’t like the idea. Ray Holman is with UAW Local 6000.

“You’re talking about services and responsibilities that are vital. And you’re talking about issues of safety, of course. And we believe that certain things are best handled by the state workforce,” he says.

Right now, MDOT is exploring public-private partnerships involving bridge work, freeway lighting, and two rest areas in Northern Michigan.

It says it’s too early to say whether the partnerships would shift public sector jobs to the private sector.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Medicaid vote delayed

Governor Rick Snyder called out Republican state Senators for taking their summer recess before voting on Medicaid expansion.  He is requesting that lawmakers return to vote on the legislation.  Michigan Radio’s Jake Neher quotes Governor Snyder as saying “Please come do your job.  Please come take a vote.  Please come vote ‘yes.’”

School budget bill in Governor's hands

Bills allowing the state to dissolve debt-ridden school districts heads to Governor Snyder’s desk today.  They were approved yesterday by the state House, with votes following party lines.  Rick Pluta reports that this may enable the state to quickly shut down the Buena Vista and Inkster school districts. 

Bridges in need of repair

1300 bridges in Michigan have been judged unsafe in a new study from Transportation for America.  Jeff Cranson with the Michigan Department of Transportation believes that Governor Snyder’s 1.2 billion-dollar road investment bill will help fix the problem.

If you’ve driven on any Metro Detroit’s major highways recently, you may have spent some time in the dark.

That’s because the region’s highways have been plagued by some recurring power outages.

The outages have hit most major highways in and around the city, especially portions of I-94 and I-96.

In some cases, whole stretches of highway have repeatedly gone completely dark.

Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi said MDOT has removed some streetlights because they were old and unsound, and lost others to accidents.

But Morosi says the bigger issue is thieves who target transformer cabinets beside the highways, particularly for their copper wire--which can be sold for scrap.

“And we’re seeing an increase in copper theft in and around the metro Detroit area, and most of these lighting outages can be attributed to that theft,” Morosi said.

Morosi says MDOT is trying to fix the problems, but funding is tight and repairs are expensive.

“At this point in time, funding is an issue for this department,” Morosi said. “Infrastructure investment is obviously something we’re keeping a close eye on, and we’re hoping something can be done in Lansing.”

MDOT officials also hope proposed legislation to crack down on scrapyards will help out.

Morosi says it’s difficult to put a price tag on fixing the problem because “it’s such a moving target.”

Nearly all major freeways have been affected, and Morosi estimates as many as 20 percent of the freeway lights around Metro Detroit aren’t working for one reason or another.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

State agencies are helping several homeless folks find a place to live, or temporary shelter, following the closing of a tent city in Ann Arbor.

The Michigan Department of Transportation, or MDOT, released a video on Monday that explains the reason behind the camp closure.

“This is just not something the department can allow for a lot of different reasons,” said Mark Sweeney with MDOT. “Safety - because of the proximity to the freeway, sanitation - because there is no running water…so quite simply, it’s a liability for the state,” he said.

The video also highlights the problem of homeless. State agencies were called on to help relocate some residents. Camp Take Notice organizers said the camp served a purpose and helped people get back on their feet.

Here's MDOT's take on Camp Take Notice:

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

State officials are preparing to cordon off a stretch of highway median near Ann Arbor to keep the homeless out.

As AnnArbor.com's Ryan Stanton reports, the site is home to Camp Take Notice, a homeless community encampment that is scheduled to be shut down tomorrow. To make sure it remains unoccupied, the Michigan Department of Transportation, which owns the land, is erecting an 8-foot fence around the 9-acre site.

MDOT and the state housing authority, Stanton says, are working to provide camp residents with rent assistance and, in some cases, help moving into subsidized housing, but authorities have made it clear that residing at the campsite is no longer an option.

From AnnArbor.com:

"We've been hearing from the community and from Camp Take Notice that the homeless have been using this area for a long time as a makeshift home," [an MDOT regional manager, Mark] Sweeney said, adding there have been complaints from nearby residents that the homeless have left the area a mess.

"We really wanted to resolve the issue once and for all," he said. "So after the camp is closed, we'll be closing off the area."

Sweeney added, "It's not against Camp Take Notice specifically, but more to prevent a homeless encampment of any kind in this location."

Earlier this year, Michigan Radio's Mercedes Mejia visited Camp Take Notice and spoke with residents about life there. You can see a video of those conversations below:

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

About 70 people took part in a rally to show support for a tent city near Ann Arbor.

It's called "Camp Take Notice," and it's been on state-owned land for more than two years. The 65 people who live there are worried their days there are numbered.

David Williams has been staying at the camp for a year. "If we lose this camp it would be difficult for me to find another safe environment to live. And I hope that people understand that. Anyone can be homeless. Homelessness is not prejudice," he said.

Organizers want a commitment from the state to allow people to continue living at the site. But one neighbor, who asked not to be named, said he'd like to see the camp gone.

"There have been reports of stolen property down there. You don't necessarily feel comfortable being outside or outside alone towards the evening. And like I said, they are not bad people, that's not the problem. It's the element that goes along with it," the neighbor said.

Jeff Cranson, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said the state has been working with the camp's organizers for a couple of years. He said there are no immediate eviction plans, but that the tent city is not safe and residents will need to relocate. Cranson said a fire broke out a few months ago and emergency crews had difficultly getting water to the site. 

He said another state agency is working to find alternative housing for the camp's residents.

Michigan Radio visited the camp in the fall of 2011.

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