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Advocates call for more sustainable funding for Michigan's infrastructure

Advocates press for more sustainable infrastructure funding
Advocates press for more sustainable infrastructure funding 03:17

(CBS DETROIT) - Late last month, the Michigan legislature passed a nearly $82 billion state budget, a historically large sum of money for the state.

Although millions will be going toward improving the state's infrastructure, one advocate tells CBS News Detroit he would have liked to see more sustainable, long-term funding. 

"We want to be cognizant and thankful for all the money that's going towards infrastructure that we don't want to complain," said Brad Ewart, the president of the Michigan chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. "But because it is, it is quite a sum of money. But we also want to acknowledge that there are funding gaps still there."

The infrastructure budget for the next fiscal year includes $416 million to improve roads and other public infrastructure, $80 million to enhance 20 bridges across the state, and $50 million for rail, marine, and local transit infrastructure, among a long list of others. 

"But ultimately, with gas tax revenues eventually going to probably fall more with the electrification of the vehicles," Ewart said. "Where are we going to get that sustainable funding? Obviously, all very hard questions for policymakers."

Over the course of reporting this story, one advocate noted that this year's budget focuses a little more on individual projects as opposed to wide-scale improvements, a fact that Zach Kolodin, Michigan's chief infrastructure officer, addressed. 

"There are a lot of projects that folks have wanted to see for a long time," Kolodin said. "We haven't had a budget in many years that has focused on solving those local problems that people keep bringing up over and over again. Our legislature is very, very attentive to what they were hearing in their communities and focused on delivering those projects and making sure they get across the finish line."

He theorized that inflation is partly to blame for local projects needing more money to be completed. 

"Inflation and infrastructure projects across the state has caused some projects to fall short of their targets, and they may need a little bit of extra cash to help get them built," Kolodin said. "But that doesn't mean they're bad projects."

Ewart says to continue Michigan's trend of improving infrastructure in a state that has to battle the weather each winter. There needs to be consistent and long-term funding each year.

"Right now, if it's year to year, we can't really look at, well, what's it going to look like in five years? And obviously, roads continue to deteriorate," Ewart said. "You know, the law of thermodynamics, things digress into chaos. And so the roads, as we repair them, they immediately start to deteriorate slowly, obviously. So giving the different departments their ability to plan out that far can help them further their gains on the deterioration."

One way Detroiters might see this infrastructure budget in action downtown will be a new pedestrian industrialized street in the heart of Greektown.

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