U.P. road projects get state funding

ESCANABA – State Rep. Ed McBroom and Marty Fittante, a representative from State Sen. Tom Casperson’s office, were in Escanaba Thursday morning to announce a series of road projects being funded in the Upper Peninsula this year. Projects are earmarked in Schoolcraft, Menominee, Alger and Dickinson counties.

The announcement took place simultaneously with other announcements across the state for projects being funded through the Road Risk and Reserve Fund. The fund was created as part of the Fiscal Year 2014 General Government Budget using $230 million in one-time General Fund revenue available due to budgeting decisions made over the past three years.

Approximately $115 million was released for projects Thursday with $6,947,606 going to projects in the U.P.

“This is a fund that’s going to provide 103 projects throughout Michigan with about 50 percent of the funds going to state trunk line projects, like the ones that MDOT oversees, and 50 percent will be going to local road projects,” said Dan Weingarten, MDOT Superior Region communication representative.

In McBroom’s 108th District, about three miles of County Road 577 in Menominee County will be repaved using $525,000 of fund money. The project will be completed in two parts, 1.3 miles between 18th Avenue and 38th Avenue, and 1.73 miles between Klippel Lane and Chalk Hills Road. County Road 569 in Dickinson County will be repaved for four miles south of the Cazolla Road intersection for $775,000.

In addition to the projects in McBroom’s district, Casperson’s 38th Senate District, which encompasses 13 of the Upper Peninsula’s 15 counties, will see two projects in Alger County, a $400,000 project on Connors Road and a $300,000 project on H-44; one county road project in Schoolcraft County, an $800,000 project on County Road 498; and one project overseen by MDOT in Schoolcraft County. The project being overseen by MDOT is a $4,147,606 resurfacing of U.S. 2 from east of the Delta/Schoolcraft County line to M-149.

Both McBroom and Casperson worked with their districts to submit what local road authorities and counties believed to be priority projects requiring immediate attention.

“I think one of the principal messages that Tom wanted me to convey today though was how unique it was that 13 road agencies in the Upper Peninsula came together and decided what should be Upper Peninsula priority projects,” said Fittante, adding the collaboration between departments eliminated competition, limited politics, and ensured that the focus was on funding priority road projects.

Not all projects submitted by the legislators’ offices were accepted.

“One of the projects that my office and I know Senator Casperson’s office also submitted a request for was funding for the bridge on County Road 420 here in Delta County, and that in a really wonderful way is finding its funding through a different funding source,” said McBroom. He said the project would most likely be funded by the Critical Bridge Fund following project approval by the state highway commission.

The $114,999,700 being used for U.P. and other projects throughout the state, represent roughly half of the funding planned to be released through the RRR Fund during the year. A second series of project announcements are planned for Feb. 1 – if the funding remains available.

“The monies that are being made available for these projects are not new revenues to the state in that the state went out and created a new tax structure. This is surplus money that the state brought in because of better budgeting techniques and such, but it still leaves unforeseeable things coming up such as the problems with the (Health Insurance Claims Assessment) tax and the delay on the Medicaid expansion,” said McBroom.

While the RRR Fund provides necessary funding for identified priority projects, it is not the only source of road funding. Money from the state’s general fund equaling $121.3 million is also available for road projects and fulfills the state’s matching requirement to receive federal transportation funds.