Michigan Senate panel backs cutting red tape for local roads

October 18, 2021

Keith Goble

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A Michigan Senate bill package is moving forward that is intended to maximize federal funding for local roads. A separate bill pursues one-time federal money for the benefit of local transportation purposes.

Saving local road agencies money

The Senate Transportation Committee has voted to advance a pair of bills to help reduce red tape for local road funding.

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 a news release.

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

MacDonald’s bill is the second bill to advance from the committee. SB466 would use state funds to replace the federal dollars directed to MDOT under SB465.

Federal shot in the arm for locals

As the two-bill package heads to the Senate floor for additional consideration, one Senate-approved bill would 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.

Most of the transportation aid – $1.3 billion – would be used 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 be responsible for coordinating the program.

SB529 is in the House Appropriations Committee. 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.