LANSING — State Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) introduced a House resolution today expressing a lack of confidence in Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Director Kirk Steudle, calling him unfit to lead the department. Dianda’s resolution has bipartisan support.
“From the 23 railcars rented for $1.1 million a year for five years for the still non-existent rail service between Ann Arbor and Howell, to the $9.2 million squandered on landscaping along a stretch of Interstate 696 that saw many of the plants die, to the D- grade Michigan just got on its roads, it’s clear that Director Kirk Steudle can’t manage this department or the funding it receives,” said Dianda.
Dianda’s resolution points to the issue of the 23 leased railcars that cost MDOT nearly $12 million in total charges for refurbishing, leasing and other fees before the department struck a deal with the railway company to stop making lease payments while ensuring the cars would be available if the commuter service ever starts. Some argue that for the money MDOT spent, the state should have owned the cars and only had to pay a small storage fee. The I-696 erosion cost an additional $2.3 million for mulch and another $620,000 to replant. Just last week, the Michigan section of the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Michigan roads a grade of D- because they found 39 percent of the 120,000 miles of paved roads in Michigan are rated in poor condition, 43 percent are rated in fair condition, and just 18 percent are rated in good condition.
“I get phone calls every day from the people I represent telling me they can’t afford to fix the flat tires and broken axles from hitting potholes,” said Dianda. “And it’s the same story all across Michigan. Patch crews should be out filling in those potholes, but that isn’t happening. The Legislature recently passed a bill spending another $175 million on much-needed road repairs to make up for the failed 2015 roads plan. But what exactly has Director Steudle done with our tax dollars he already has?”
Dianda also pointed to a 2015 Michigan Auditor General’s report that cited MDOT for not following up on road warranties and holding road contractors responsible for their work. More than half of expired warranties needed corrective action, potentially shifting repair costs to the state instead of the contractors. Similar issues were raised in a 2010 auditor’s report, which Steudle and the department failed to address.
“The 2015 roads plan forced us to pay more at the pump and added a new higher ‘birthday’ tax when we register our cars every year, and a lot of that money goes to Director Steudle and MDOT. Yet all we have to show for that money over the past three years is a D- grade on our roads,” said Dianda. “We deserve better leadership in this state. We need good roads so that people can get to work and get their kids to schools safely. We need good roads to keep our local businesses, industries and their jobs in our communities. We need good roads because without them, outside companies will never invest. We need good roads because it’s what the people of Michigan have been paying for, and it’s what they deserve. But under Kirk Steudle that isn’t going to happen. Steudle doesn’t deserve to lead MDOT any longer.”