Op-Ed: Michigan Needs a New Transportation Strategy

One writer calls on the state to stop expanding roads and channel funding to projects that support Michigan’s sustainability goals.

Read Time: 2 minutes

October 17, 2022, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Aerial photo of the US 131/M-6/68th St. interchange in Wyoming, MIchigan

Highway 131 in Wyoming, Michigan | Michigan Dept. of Transportation / Wikimedia

In an opinion piece in Bridge Michigan, Robert Goodspeed calls on the state of Michigan to rethink its transportation spending and shift focus away from expanding freeways and roads that contribute to carbon emissions and induce more driving and congestion. Goodspeed asks, “Why do we need these if the state population has been flat for 20 years, and highways run counter to our state’s sustainability goals?”

“Right now, MDOT is spending $1.3 billion on the I-75 modernization project which will add additional commuting lanes, and a reported $269 million on a project to add a ‘flex’ lane to a 12-mile segment of I-96 in Oakland County. The $3 billion reconstruction of I-94 in downtown Detroit is also adding a lane and incurring the costs of wider bridges to accommodate it.” As Goodspeed notes, “Although some of the big freeway projects also include necessary rehabilitations, a big part of their cost are additional lanes and interchanges to make traffic flow a bit smoother.”

Goodspeed pushes back against common arguments for road expansion, writing, “In the longer term, they encourage sprawling development that empties out existing communities and gobbles up precious farmland and wilderness. One study found road improvements resulted in 20 percent more traffic.”

The op-ed ends with a strong call to action. “Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan calls for carbon neutrality by 2050. To act on it, her administration should immediately cancel all road widening projects and modernizations resulting in more lane miles (including HOV and Flex lanes), including the capacity enhancing features I-23, I-96, and I-75 projects. Doing so would unlock millions which can be used to address the maintenance needs of existing roads and free up funds for transit alternatives.”

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