Gov. Whitmer announces 21 Rebuilding Michigan Road Projects for 2021
Here’s a rundown of roadwork set to begin or resume this month
By WWJ Newsradio 950
(WWJ) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s famous campaign promise was to “fix the damn roads!” And while many in Michigan say she has not done enough to that end, there’s news today on more work soon to begin.
Whitmer on Tuesday announced the first 21 state highway projects starting throughout the state as part of the 2021 Michigan Department of Transportation construction season; a blend of projects previously funded through MDOT’s budget, as well as several supported by the Rebuilding Michigan bonding program.
Projects starting or resuming in March include:
- Continuation of a $121.5 million investment to rebuild I-94 Business Loop (BL) (Main Street), connect US-31 to I-94, and rebuild I-94 between Britain Avenue and I-196 in Benton Township, Berrien County. This is the second season of work on this three-year project funded through the Rebuilding Michigan program.
- Rebuilding 3.4 miles of M-3 (Gratiot Avenue) between 11 Mile and 14 Miles roads in the city of Roseville, investing $60 million over two years. This project not only replaces the roadway, but also updates the water main and storm sewer, traffic signals, and sidewalks and ramps to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
- $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. Work includes deck replacement, painting, structural steel repairs, and beam repairs.
- Rebuilding 12 miles of southbound I-196 from Holland to Saugatuck/Douglas in Allegan County. This $34 million investment supported by the Rebuilding Michigan program and federal funds includes not only road rebuilding, but also culvert replacements and bridge improvements, as well as replacement of 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 6 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 construction of 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. The new bridges will be both wider and safer than the two they are replacing.
“This is all about keeping Michigan drivers safe on the road,” said Whitmer, 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. As we get into the spring and summer, you will see more work going on as we move quickly to make up for decades of under investment in infrastructure. Let’s get to work and let’s get it done.”
Whitmer’s Rebuilding Michigan program is focused on rebuilding the state highways and bridges that are critical to the state’s economy and carry the most traffic, the state said. The investment strategy is aimed at “fixes that result in longer useful lives and improves the condition of the state’s infrastructure.”
“Michigan has needed real, sustained investment in our roads and bridges – and the jobs that investment creates – for far too long,” said Operating Engineers 324 Business Manager Douglas Stockwell. “Governor Whitmer’s Rebuilding Michigan plan finally addresses this issue, and puts our highly skilled, safety-trained members to work doing what we do best: fixing the roads and bridges to keep Michigan running. Good roads benefit communities and good jobs stimulate the economy. This investment creates both. The men and women of Operating Engineers 324 will continue to answer the call.”
Dozens of other road and bridge rebuilding projects are planned for the 2021 construction season through the traditional federal and state funding sources, as well as the Rebuilding Michigan bonding program.
“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,” said State Transportation Director Paul Ajegba. “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.”
As Whitmer requested, the State Transportation Commission (STC) in January 2020 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 throughout the state, and frees up funding already dedicated to those project for roughly 120 other projects, expanding the scope of that work or advancing project schedules.
MDOT sold a first $800 million package of bonds in September 2020. The very favorable market reaction resulted in a premium as the sale generated nearly $1.1 billion in proceeds. Strong bond ratings from S&P and Moody’s rating agencies reflected the dedicated revenues stream of fuel taxes and vehicle registrations to repay investors, as well as the STC’s policy to limit MDOT’s debt service to 25 percent of revenues.
“After Gov. Whitmer announced her Rebuilding Michigan bonding program, Moody’s issued a report supporting the state’s investment in infrastructure for the impact on our economic competitiveness.” said Patrick McCarthy, Director of MDOT’s Bureau of Finance & Administration. “They also recognized that making those investments now provides value, while delaying increases costs to make repairs to our infrastructure.”