Summer Travel

A sign reminds motorists the statewide death toll as traffic begins to thicken with travelers getting an early jump to Memorial Day destinations in Indiana and Michigan travel an interstate freeway through Chicago Friday, May 24, 2013.

The Michigan House will now take up a proposal to complete a feasibility study on toll highways in the state after the measure passed Tuesday in the Senate.

SB 517 would require the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to hire a third-party consulting firm to conduct a study and implementation plan for highway toll roads, including revenue projections.

If passed by the House and signed into law, that study would be completed and delivered to legislative leaders within 18 months.

Six other bills regarding transportation also were passed in the Senate.

Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, sponsored two bills that would reform infrastructure policy.

“This reform package is designed to maximize road funding efficiency to ensure we use our tax dollars as effectively as possible,” Barrett, who chairs the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said. “These reforms would improve the ability of our local and state road agencies to better meet our growing infrastructure needs, protect Michigan taxpayers from waste and ensure our roads are built to last.”

SB 515 would require MDOT to develop a highway construction cost inflation index by March 1, 2020.

SB 516 would extend the local agency road asset management report requirements from three years to at least five years and would require MDOT to issue 20-year plans for road construction strategy each decade that are given to the Legislature, State Budget Directory, and the House and Senate fiscal agencies.

“Transportation infrastructure is expensive, and these reforms would give officials better information about how market forces are impacting costs and improve collaboration between the state and local roads agencies,” Barrett said.

SB 518 and SB 519 would allow local road agencies to exchange some of its federal funds with MDOT for state funds.

“By allowing local road agencies to swap federal funds for state funds, we can maximize our road funding and local agencies could save up to 30 percent on their projects,” Sen. Michael MacDonald, R-Macomb Township, said. “Federal transportation dollars often come with strings attached. The burdensome requirements can cost local agencies a substantial amount of time and money – resources that would better be used fixing the roads.”

The Senate Fiscal Agency estimated the bills could save 20 percent to 30 percent on road construction projects under local jurisdiction.

SB 520 would amend the Michigan Transportation Law to require MDOT and county road commissions to obtain construction pavement warranties on projects exceeding $5 million, instead of the current $2 million.

It would also require cities and villages to obtain repair or replacement warranties on construction paving projects exceeding $2 million.

The Senate Fiscal Agency estimated $8 million to $10 million of savings over several years through cost savings in bypassing warranties under $5 million.

SB 522 would create a grant program in 2024 to help local road agencies with engineering and complying with state and local requirements.

“As part of a multi-bill package to improve road policies in Michigan, my bill would establish a position within the Transportation Asset Management Council to help our local communities navigate the cumbersome bureaucratic process,” Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, said.

“Local road agencies with limited resources can often struggle with the complex state and federal requirements, and this would help solve that problem.”

The bill package moves to the House for consideration.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to address road funding during the State of the State address at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Staff Reporter

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.