She ran a campaign on “fixing the damn roads.” Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s tagline and focus policy agenda on this front ran into a snag during the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing her office to shift their attention to other priorities.
Now, as the pandemic era has subsided and life begins to return back to normal, so does the seemingly elevated level of construction barrels for road and bridge repair.
With freeway lane closures and detours at every turn, travel delays to school and work getting longer, it has left one to perceive road investment as ticked up a notch and to every stretch of the state and metro Detroit. Is road construction happening everywhere, all at once?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer reflected on her old campaign pledge in an interview with the Michigan Chronicle at the annual Michigan Policy Conference.
“Someone said to me, ‘do you need to fix all the roads, right at the same damn time?’” said Governor Whitmer. “We’re making progress. There’s no question, for decades we underfunded infrastructure in the state. We’re not fixing a single road right now, but it feels like it because there’s a lot of work being done.”
Governor Whitmer says by the end of the year, the state will have rebuilt 20,000 lane miles and 1400 bridges.
But are these improvements causing travel headaches for people commuting, therefore creating additional barriers for Detroiters to get around?
“It’s the investment we need and it’s not fun,” Governor Whitmer added. “ We should all be a little salty that we had leaders who weren’t focused on this issue. It would be irritating to be sidelined by a pothole that busted the rear on your car and cost you a lot of money rather than the time of your commute.”
Road and bridge construction causing temporary reroutes and barriers has a larger context as state officials work to make progress for the health of Detroit and all communities.
“In order for folks to invest here, in order for folks to build their families here, they’ve got to have confidence that their infrastructure is going to deliver,” said Zachary Kolodin, chief infrastructure officer, of the Michigan Infrastructure Office.
“For roads, it means it’s going to deliver safe, reliable commute to work. When we deliver that, folks will eventually feel confident that they can build a good life here.”
Governor Whitmer launched a bridge buddling program two years ago, taking groups of bridges in communities across the state, including Detroit, and put them in larger contracts to tackle them in mass capacity.
“These are bridge projects that people can see and feel. Obviously, people know if their local bridge closes.”
Whether you’re talking freeway lanes or bridges, there is a focus on those “lane mile connections” as well. The road travel to work, school or shopping once you’ve exited the freeway. All of which are receiving fine tuning thanks to state investment and each county and city making improvements to their own road infrastructure as well.
The Department of Public Works in Detroit kicked off the 2023 road construction season with plans to complete $95 million worth of road and sidewalk improvements.
While road construction improvement may cause temporary barriers, the state’s infrastructure office is aware of the importance of providing equity in the opportunity for the road work done in our community.
“As we work to build to a more inclusive transportation system and inclusive structure or building our roads and focusing on our infrastructure needs, we have to partner at every step with the federal government, working closely with them will allow us to use tools to work with disadvantaged business enterprises. We can work with the federal government to empower smaller businesses who are minority- and mostly women-owned and allow us to be creative on how we structure jobs.”
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