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Published: Thursday, 2/28/2008

Granholm pushes up 34 road projects

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LANSING - Moving up $150 million in projects to replace or repair more roads and bridges this summer should add 2,100 construction and engineering jobs in Michigan, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said yesterday.

The 34 projects sprinkled around the state had been set for 2009 or later, but were moved up as part of the governor's economic stimulus project. The state Transportation Commission is expected to approve them when it meets today.

The largest project will spend $53 million to reconstruct a section of I-94 in St. Clair County. The smallest involves $198,941 for beam-end repair on a I-94 bridge over Portage Road in Kalamazoo County.

None of the money will be available for dealing with potholes in local roads, but Ms. Granholm said it will be used to improve deteriorating state roads and bridges this summer.

A spokesman for the road construction industry said the extra $150 million isn't enough.

"While we applaud the governor's acknowledgment that our roads need an emergency cash infusion, this small amount of money won't even begin to make a difference for drivers out there who are dodging dangerous potholes every day," said Mike Nystrom of the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association.

In a release he said the state has a shrinking pot of money this year from which to pay for roads and bridges because revenues from the state gasoline tax are shrinking as motorists buy less fuel because of high gasoline prices. The state also has less money to spend because it has run through the road money from its earlier Jobs Today bonding program.

The decrease has left the state with $300 million less to spend on roads and bridges, a drop of 18 percent, Mr. Nystrom said. He was speaking on behalf of the Michigan Transportation Team, a group lobbying lawmakers to spend more on transportation.

Ms. Granholm agreed during yesterday's news conference that the state needs more money for roads. The state spent about $1.6 billion on its road program in the last fiscal year, an amount that could drop closer to about $1.2 billion in the next few years as revenues decline.

But the governor again rejected a plan that MITA supports to increase the state gasoline tax 3 cents a year for three years, from 19 cents a gallon now to 28 cents a gallon by 2010. She said the tax is regressive and should not be raised when gasoline prices are rising.



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