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MDOT road show reveals … nothing new

Guest Post by Bill Palladino. (Interested in contributing to MyWHaT, please contact the editor)

There was an opportunity for the Michigan House Transportation Committee to show its commitment for northern Michigan on Monday.  Unfortunately, most of them decided they had better things to do, including our own Senator Jason Allen.

The meeting, was a hearing to discuss “delayed” MDOT construction projects for 2011 – 2014 in the north region.  Only three of the committee’s 17 members showed up!

Grand Traverse County road commission estimates a need of over $10 million annually to raise the level of it's roads to 'good'.

After listening to what the few committee members had to say, I guess I wouldn’t have showed up either.

The message was clear. Out of $96 Million dollars earmarked for road work in the northern Michigan region, $62 million will be delayed by at least four years.  That’s a 65% shortfall in critically needed projects.  And it seems there’s no solution in mind, so we may simply continue this travesty in ensuing years.  Can you say crisis?

Road Commissions’ call for help

After the MDOT report, several members of area road commissions (TV7&4 report) weighed in to emphasize the urgent state of our region’s roads.  Mary Gillen, manager of the GT County Road Commission showed a sobering set of slides (PDF) suggesting that 80% of the county’s roads are considered to be in poor condition–many of them unimproved since the 1960s!

I’m happy that the House Transportation Committee chose to grace Traverse City with their presence.  Committee chair Pam Byrnes, did a terrific job of hosting the session and making people feel welcomed.  We should feel privileged.

Instead, what I’m left with is a certain hollow feeling. A feeling that wants me to ask “why did they even bother?”  The costs associated with moving a legislative hearing 200 miles north must be immense.  Why would you do it knowing there would not be a quorum? They apparently imagined there would be trouble too, as a State Trooper was on guard at the front door the entire time.  I think we can all agree his time would’ve been better spent patrolling the pothole strewn roads of our region. This meeting could’ve been “phoned in”

Why is this important in a blog site about bicycle and pedestrian transportation?

Let’s face it, bipedal modes of transport are thought of as something just short of the lunatic fringe.  This is especially true when it comes to funding projects.  In light of the predicament for federal, county, and state funding for our roads, it makes it much more difficult for us to justify a new direction for the region.  One that will help us realize our shared vision for a more walkable, bikeable, pedestrian friendly community.

Here is the House Transportation Committee roster.  It is shameful that 14 of these public servants made a decision not to join this critical conversation. (Asterisks represent members present at the meeting.)

Committee Members:

___

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  1. Sally Trombly
    March 10, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for the updates Gary.

    I plan to mail some letters this week.

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