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Michigan Looks For Salt, Legislation To Help State's Wintry, Crumbling Roads

DETROIT (WWJ) -- Snow removal agencies in Metro Detroit are gearing up for another snowy winter by buying ample amounts of road salt.

One snow removal contractor says that during an average Michigan winter he uses 1,000 tons of road salt. This year, he's purchased 1,500 tons.

John Baker, owner of Metro Detroit Landscaping, said that he purchased salt early because of a shortage in places with cold weather climates.

"We were proactive this year in getting salt, so we ordered basically the same amount that we used last year, had that ordered and delivered in August -- which is very early for us," Baker said. "Normally, we wouldn't get it until November, but there was already a shortage going into this season. We didn't want to be caught without having it for our customers."

According to some reports, contractors and road commissions throughout the Midwest are purchasing their road salt from places as far as Morocco and Egypt.

"I actually bought mine from Canada, somewhere close to the Niagara Falls area," Baker said. "I found it kind of surprising, considering we're sitting on top of so much salt. But I couldn't get it from any of my normal suppliers this year."

While snow removal contractors gear up to make sure the roads are clear, lawmakers in Lansing are hoping to take a final vote next week on a legislation to repair the state's crumbling roads and freeways.

WWJ Newsradio 950's Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick said that the debate is definitely picking up steam.

"I believe the talks between the Governor and the legislative leaders have intensified," Skubick said. "They meet three times yesterday (Thursday) -- that's rare. My guess is there will be some texting and conversations over the weekend."

Governor Rick Snyder has said that he would like to see a final resolution reached as soon as next week.

The conditions of Michigan's roads may also be affecting the state's economy in ways some may not initially think. Wayne State University Professor John Taylor -- an expert on transportation policy -- said that the state needs to add more lanes to busy freeways to reduce traffic jams.

"Companies aren't really interested in coming and subjecting their employees to that -- either from a quality of life standpoint or from a work standpoint," Taylor said. "It's tough to get workers, specialists, sales people technicians, engineers back and forth to all the places that they need to get to."

Taylor said that right now, many businesses are turned off from locating here because of the congestion. Taylor added that Michigan is losing billions of dollars per year in lost business, car repairs and safety issues because of the condition of the roads.

"We should have a dramatically better situation in terms of mobility in southeast Michigan on our expressway system," Taylor said. "We aren't as good as we should be, and part of the reason is because we haven't added any capacity in 30 or 40 years fundamentally. We have some major intersection problems on I-275, I-696 and so on."

Taylor says putting in toll booths would not be practical to raise money for roads, so lawmakers will have to approve some form of higher fuel taxes and registration fees to bring in additional revenues.

MORE: House Approves Road Funding Bill, Using Money Which Would Go To Schools, Local Governments

Pushing For Gas Tax Hike, Snyder Releases Video Exhibiting State's Crumbling Roads

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