The Billion Dollar Roads Boondoggle in Pothole Season — Pure Michigan
While Michigan motorists bump along on dangerous roads, the Michigan Department of Transportation continues to advance their $2.7 billion unnecessary and wasteful project to widen a short stretch of I-94 in Detroit based on (now useless) traffic data from over a dozen years ago.
Opponents of the project met in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood today to ask Gov. Snyder to divert funds from this wasteful boondoggle to make much-needed repairs to roads elsewhere in the state. Petitions and letters were also delivered to his office.
A report released last fall from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund (Public Interest Research Group), titled Highway Boondoggles, Wasted Money and America’s Transportation Future, cites the I-94 widening project as among the most needless in the nation. The report calls for state and federal decision-makers to reevaluate the plan, along with ten other pointless projects across the country.
“With the Federal Highway Trust Fund on life support, states struggling to meet basic infrastructure needs, and growing demands for investment in public transportation and other non-driving forms of transportation, America does not have the luxury of wasting tens of billions of dollars on new highways of questionable value.”
Rep. Jim Townsend (D-26) attended today’s event and had this to say about the project:
This morning I was at the United Sound System Recording Studio to speak in opposition of the wasteful I-94 expansion project. This historic building is just one of 12 commercial buildings, 14 individual homes, 2 duplexes and 2 apartment buildings that would be demolished as a result of adding more lanes.
Wasteful boondoggles such as this are why we are struggling to gain taxpayer’s confidence in our ability to invest their money wisely.
Townsend’s words reflect the concerns of many Detroiters who believe the seven mile-long expansion will likely hinder the Motor City’s economic recovery. The PIRG report asserts that the widening project will make it “more difficult by further separating two neighborhoods that have been leading the city’s revitalization”.
Midtown and New Center neighborhoods have been key to the rebirth of Detroit. Growth in cultural arts, commercial and retail development, along with innovative planning — like the recently launched $140 million streetcar project — will be put in jeopardy by bisecting these newly flourishing meccas. Under the MDOT plan, eleven bridges linking the neighborhoods would be removed, causing pedestrians and bicycle riders to travel an additional six blocks just to cross the road.
In late 2012, The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments conducted a survey of Detroit-area residents finding they reported no vexing problems with traffic jams, and they “would rather live with current levels of congestion (63 percent) than pay more to reduce traffic congestion (37 percent).” A wiser use of the federal funds would be to resurface crumbling roads which would have a positive impact on the wallets of Motor City commuters — saving them at least a portion of the $1,600 they sacrifice to pot holes every year.
In less than a month, Michigan voters head to the polls to weigh-in on the controversial ballot question to bump the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent and increase fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees to raise an estimated $1.25 billion in additional funds to repair Michigan’s roads. The bi-partisan measure has little hope of success though, and Gov. Snyder readily concedes there’s no plan-B in the hopper. Although to be fair, the governor wouldn’t want to tip his hand and play into the political opposition’s game. Recent MIRS polling indicates 55 percent against, 36 percent for, and 9 percent undecided on the proposal. GOP lawmakers who oppose the roads plan are offering-up their own plan-B which would substantially nick school and municipal funding to stir-up about $1.2 billion extra for roads.
Voters will have their say on May 5th.