October 20, 2011
The Honorable Rick Snyder, Governor
State of Michigan
State Capitol
Lansing, Michigan

Dear Governor Snyder:

As you prepare your message on infrastructure, the members of the bipartisan Southeast Michigan Caucus want to share some goals we have set to address the region’s aging and inadequate transportation and water infrastructure and position southeast Michigan and the entire state to compete for investment and good-paying jobs. These principles were developed by the Caucus’ co-chairs for water quality and transportation and reflect our belief that protecting water quality, fixing and maintaining our roads and empowering southeast Michigan to operate and fund its own mass transit system are essential to building a new Michigan economy and a bright future for the people of our region.

We embrace your insistence on measuring the value created by the expenditure of public funds and strongly recommend that dashboard metrics be established for tracking state and regional water quality and road and bridge quality and the performance of transit systems. We also believe that state dollars should be allocated based on how best to achieve those targeted levels of quality rather than political expediency.

I. Support Communities that Invest in Protecting our Waters

As governor, you have championed the Pure Michigan campaign to expand our beautiful state’s tourism and recreation economy and we share your support for this impactful marketing effort. Southeast Michigan, however, will never realize the promise of Pure Michigan unless we bring to an end the massive dumping of untreated sewage into our waters, particularly Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River.

In the Clinton River watershed area leading to Lake St. Clair, the Macomb County Health Department reports that over 3.6 billion gallons of Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO’s)/Storm Sewer/Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSO’s) have discharged from January – September 2011 so far. Municipalities are charging their residents for treating sewage that is being dumped untreated into the Clinton River watershed that leads into Lake St. Clair. Dashboard metrics should track the total amount of untreated sewage entering our waters and the number of days that Michigan beaches are closed due to contamination.

A September 2011 Report to Michigan Legislature of the State Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund Advisory Committee includes recommendations to expand access to sewer infrastructure funds for local communities, including using the remaining $650 million in Clean Water Bond funds approved by voters in 2002 over the next five years. We call on the Department of Environmental Quality to review its regulations in an effort to increase the number of communities willing to make applications to the SRF.

The best practices included within the Economic Investment Program that replaced statutory revenue sharing should also be reviewed to consider adding investments in road and sewer infrastructure. A community willing to invest in sewer system improvements that result in less pollution to their neighbors downstream should be rewarded for that environmental best practice.

II. Rebuild our Road and Bridge Assets and Empower Regions to Offer Viable Transit Options

The decisions we make with regard to transportation investments will have a decisive impact on the economic competitiveness of our state as a whole and southeast Michigan in particular. For too long we have failed to properly manage our roads, bridges and transit systems and the results are plain for our residents and visitors to see. We must demonstrate to the people of Michigan that we are prepared to invest their money more intelligently based on rigorous measures of quality, asset usage and preventive maintenance so that we maximize the value of their investment. We, therefore, propose a set of standards that should guide the expenditure of transportation infrastructure funds:

  • 90 percent of road agencies should meet criteria for asset management principles,

  • 95 percent of our freeways should be in “good or fair” condition,

  • 85 percent of all other paved roads in Michigan in “good or fair” condition.

Metrics to establish for road construction and maintenance quality should support rapid production-to-market distribution for businesses with connections to multimodal options. Lowering the cost of vehicle maintenance and providing safe travel are also important road quality goals. New money allocated to road agencies should be tied in part to being certified by the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council as meeting their criteria for conducting a road maintenance asset management program.

It is important to note that southeast Michigan is the nation’s only major metropolitan area that lacks a well-developed mass transit system. We believe that it is long past the time for southeast Michigan to establish a regional authority to oversee current transit operations and to plan and implement improvements to the system. It is critically important that legislation be enacted establishing such an authority so that the people of southeast Michigan can have access to safe, reliable bus service now and so that our region can work effectively with the federal government and others to fund the phased development and operation of a comprehensive rapid transit system that includes a mix of bus, light rail and commuter rail. Finally, we seek your support for legislation that would empower the residents of southeast Michigan to decide for themselves how to fund such as system.

Our region and the State of Michigan cannot succeed in attracting and retaining the investment and world-class talent we must have unless we establish a policy of strategically improving our physical infrastructure. This will enable us to leverage key regional assets, such as our majestic waterways and our attractive communities and urban centers. The members of the Southeast Michigan Caucus look forward to working with you to address infrastructure issues that greatly impact our economic vitality and environmental integrity as we move Michigan forward.

The Southeast Michigan Caucus

Rep. Jim Townsend
SE MI Caucus Co-Chair

Sen. Patrick Colbeck
SE MI Caucus Co-Chair

Rep. Anthony G. Forlini
SE MI Caucus
Water Quality Co-Chair

Sen. Rebekah Warren
SE MI Caucus
Water Quality Co-Chair

Rep. Rick Olson
SE MI Caucus
Transportation Co-Chair

Sen. Bert Johnson
SE MI Caucus
Transportation Co-Chair