In January–before the Obama administration took office and amidst discussion about the possibility of pouring millions of dollars into the economy for infrastructure improvement projects as form of economic stimulus–the American Society of Civil Engineers released a “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” that found that the United States needs major improvements in its infrastructure.
Now the group has released state-by-state rankings, and not surprisingly for anyone that has driven on Michigan’s roads, Michigan ranked quite poorly with the group stating that “Michigan’s infrastructure is in dire need.”
In a 50-page report on the state of Michigan’s infrastructure, the group rated several key components of Michigan’s infrastructure:
AVIATION: C – Michigan’s 200+ airports generate $4.3 billion for Michigan’s economy each year. The individual components — runway systems, pavement conditions, terminals, weather access, security and pilot and aircraft services — are in satisfactory condition. However, current infrastructure repair, maintenance and expansion needs exceed $1.3 billion over the next five years, a figure well beyond existing revenue. It is imperative that Michigan establish dedicated funding for airport infrastructure.
DAMS: D – Over 90% of Michigan’s 2,581 dams will reach or exceed their design life by 2020. Many dams are abandoned, no longer serve any useful purpose, and pose safety hazards to downstream residents. No funding is currently available in Michigan to help dam owners repair, or remove aging dams.
DRINKING WATER: D – The State of Michigan is in the unique position of being surrounded by the Great Lakes, which offer an abundant supply of fresh water. Yet the State faces crucial funding challenges both in treating and distributing clean drinking water to continue to meet the level of service demands of its residents. Nearly 75% of Michigan’s population is served by a community water system. The current fiscal needs for water system rehabilitation in the State exceed $11 billion.
ENERGY: C – The overall health of the energy generation and transmission system in Michigan generally meets the state’s current needs. However, reliability and security concerns are posed by the state’s dependence on coal and natural gas fueled generation and reliance on fuel supplied by external sources. Congestion limitations and interface limits exist between the State of Michigan’s transmission system and neighboring grids in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio and Ontario, Canada. Diversification of energy supply, investments in renewable energy and transmission system upgrades are needed to alleviate congestion and to reduce dependency on fossil-based generation.
ROADS AND BRIDGES: D – Michigan’s extensive network of roads and bridges allows the state’s 10 million residents to safely and freely travel while enabling businesses to efficiently serve their customers. However, Michigan’s network is rapidly aging. 38% of roads are in poor condition, 28% of the bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and U.S. truckers rate Michigan roads as 3rd worst in the country. While road and bridge funding should be increasing to keep pace with rising construction costs, the reality is that revenues are declining. Continuing to shortchange our transportation system will lead to declining quality of life and reduced economic competitiveness in the global economy. Bold action is required now.
STORMWATER: D – Michigan’s stormwater management system provides flood protection, fosters development, improves agricultural production and extends the service life of roads, streets and highways. Stormwater management improves the water quality of streams, rivers and the Great Lakes. Statewide operation and maintenance procedures are inconsistent and the state does not maintain an inventory of its stormwater management system. Funding for continued maintenance, repair and water quality improvement is inadequate and nonexistent in many areas.
TRANSIT: D – Following a national trend, transit use in Michigan has grown faster over the last two decades than any other mode of transportation. The rise in demand is outstripping capacity. Often the money used for the expansion comes from funds allotted to maintenance. As a result, the physical condition of the infrastructure is declining. Some form of public transportation is available throughout the state and in many rural areas, but the capacities of most urban systems fail to meet demand. The presence of efficient public transportation increases property use and value. Improving public transportation services within the state is a key component in reviving Michigan’s economy.
WASTEWATER COLLECTION SYSTEMS: C – The Great Lakes State’s 35,000 inland lakes and ponds, 54,300 miles of river systems and five million acres of wetlands are its greatest resource. Much of the state’s wastewater collection system infrastructure — sewers, pumping stations and wastewater treatment facilities — is decades beyond a system’s life expectancy. The EPA calculates Michigan’s funding requirements at $6 billion to address the system’s replacement, rehabilitation, expansion and process improvement needs. Approximately $2 billion alone is needed to prevent combined sewer overflows.
NAVIGABLE WATERWAYS: C – Michigan’s navigation system includes coastal infrastructure, navigation harbors, channels, locks, and dams. The system contains approximately 90 harbors, 14 waterways or rivers, the significant Soo Locks system, and disposal facilities for depositing dredged material. Annual maintenance and repair costs outpace the limited federal funding from the Army Corps of Engineers, which causes total system needs to grow each year. Because commercial harbors have priority and the needs exceed the available funding, recreational harbors rarely receive dollars for maintenance or improvements.
In each section, the group makes specific recommendations for improvement. These include everything from allotting more staff members to regulatory agencies to increasing taxes to pay for necessary upgrades.
Nationwide, the group calls for more federal involvement in maintaining and expanding the country’s infrastructure.