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State board approves Whitmer's plan for $3.5B in road bond funding

Posted at 1:20 PM, Jan 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-30 13:20:49-05

(WXYZ) — The Michigan State Transportation Board unanimously vote on Thursday to approve a plan from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that would give billions of dollars to fix some of Michigan's roads.

The commission authorized the Michigan Department of Transportation to sell $3.5 billion in road and bridge-building bonds for 49 projects. Those projects would rebuild essential state-owned freeways and bridges, but wouldn't affect other roads owned by counties or municipalities.

“Michigan has the worst roads in the nation, and the longer we wait to fix them, the more expensive it will get,” Whitmer said in a release. “That’s why I’m rolling up my sleeves now and getting to work fixing our state roads and freeways. My Rebuilding Michigan plan will save taxpayer money, save lives, and allow us to start moving dirt this construction season. Let’s get it done.”

Whitmer first announced the plan in her State of the State address on Wednesday.

With an eye toward saving some of Michigan’s most vital highways before they crumble beyond the point of no return, the State Transportation Commission today authorized the sale of $3.5 billion in road- and bridge-building bonds

“Tonight’s address is yet another reminder of Gretchen Whitmer's failed first year as governor, and even more of the same empty promises for the future. Instead of committing to work with Republicans to find commonsense solutions to Michigan’s problems, Governor Whitmer made it clear that she’ll go it alone without the legislature if they don’t agree with her tax and spend policies." Michigan Republican Party Chairman Laura Cox said in a release on Wednesday.

According to the governor's office,

Because the bonds finance rebuilding as opposed to more temporary fixes, the roads and bridges will far outlast the payoff dates for the bonds.

“Bonding makes sense when the degradation curve shows the cost of putting off rebuilding outweighs the cost of financing and interest,” Commissioner George Heartwell said in a release. “As a three-term mayor of Grand Rapids, I frequently implored lawmakers to find a sustainable funding solution for roads and bridges. The fact that the Legislature is still stalling leaves the governor no choice but to employ this tool to rebuild crucial roads and bridges now.”

Whitmer, who campaigned with the slogal "Fix the damn roads," had proposed a 45-cent gas tax that was rejected by Republic legislators.

She calls the plan "Rebuilding Michigan," and both Govs. Jennifer Granholm and John Engler have used bonds for roadwork. Gov. Rick Snyder opposed it.

"What she's focusing on is a financing tool and, if done right, can be responsible," House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican, said. "But it's not a funding proposal. So this is not a long-term solution for our roads — simply taking out a loan and passing it on to our children," he said.