Michigan bills seek to cut local road funding red tape

September 9, 2021

Keith Goble

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At the same time, the Michigan Legislature is pursuing one-time federal money for the benefit of local transportation issues, a Senate bill package is intended to maximize road funding that comes from the federal government.

Reducing local road agency costs

The Senate Transportation Committee recently held a hearing on two bills to help reduce local road funding red tape.

The first bill, SB465, would allow local road agencies to participate in a federal aid swap with the state.

According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, local road agencies see an estimated 20-30% cost increase by meeting federal standards, such as bidding and reporting. However, the state DOT estimates a 10-15% cost increase to comply with federal requirements.

The disparity is attributed to state operations that are more suited to handle the administrative federal requirements than smaller municipalities.

“The bottom line is that the state is in the position to help local agencies focus more funds on fixing roads instead of devoting precious resources to complying with burdensome federal administrative requirements,” Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, said in prepared remarks.

Sen. Michael MacDonald, R-Macomb Township, added that the state has much more experience dealing with the federal rules and can more easily meet the requirements at minimal costs.

His bill, SB466, would use state funds to replace the federal dollars directed to MDOT under SB465.

One-time federal boost

While the Senate Transportation Committee continues to consider the two-bill package, the Senate has voted to tap $1.625 billion in one-time federal money to aid local transportation.

Specifically, SB529 would apply a portion of the $5.65 billion in federal Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Funds the state received from the U.S. Treasury for bridge projects.

Money for local transportation purposes would be used to rehabilitate or replace bridges, compensate county road commissions and cities and villages for lost revenue related to the pandemic, and address local rail grade separation issues.

The biggest chunk of transportation aid – $1.3 billion – would be allotted for bridges in need of rehabilitation or replacement. Priority would be given to locally owned bridges closed to traffic; locally owned bridges currently posted or restricted from legal loads; and locally owned bridges in need of rehabilitation or replacement as rated by regional bridge councils to ensure safety or unimpeded commercial traffic.

About $196,000 would be designated for county road commissions and cities and villages. Another $126,000 would be applied for local rail grade separation.

The Michigan DOT would coordinate the program.

SB529 has moved to the House. LL

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Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.