WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new federal highway bill is aiming to improve our country's infrastructure, including right here in Michigan.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advanced the $547 billion "Invest in America Act Package." However, it passed along party lines, with only two Republicans in the committee supporting it.
The full house is expected to vote on the bill the week of June 28.
In Michigan, $210 million has been earmarked. That money would be used on 68 roads and transit projects across the state. Out of the 14 Michigan house seats, 12 representatives chose to ask for the money.
Mound Rd. has caught the eye of Rep. Andy Levin, representing Michigan’s 9th district which includes Macomb County and southeast Oakland County. The House Transportation And Infrastructure Committee approved his request for $11 million for Mound.
He also put in requests for other corridors, like $3.5 million for Kelly Road in Fraser, and $3.1 million for 14 Mile Road in Roseville. In all, he asked for more than $20 million for roads in his district.
There has already been some money aside for the $217 million Mound project, including a 2018 federal grant for $98 million. However, Levin says without this current funding, the other projects he requested funds for would have been put on the back burner.
“The other ones are straight up funding for the projects and they’re, they are going to be back in some list of potential projects if we don’t get this funding, so it is do or die for right now for these other projects,” said Levin.
The largest request for money from a single project came from Rep. Debbie Dingell, who requested $20 million dollars to replace the Miller Road and Rotunda Drive bridges in Dearborn.
There has been some state funding set aside as part of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s $300 million bridge bundling plan to fix 120 local bridges throughout Michigan in 2022. However, Dingell says without the money there would not be enough money for the massive project.
“We just lost a big battery plant, for two reasons, and one of them was the conditions of our roads and our bridges, we have to fix them because we want to be in competition I want those jobs coming here,” said Dingell.
Also asking for funds, Republican lawmaker Lisa McClain of Michigan’s 10th district, concentrated mostly in Michigan’s thumb.
“We have to invest in our infrastructure or it’s going to crumble like we have seen,” said McClain.
One of the larger asks she is seeking is $10 million for the reconstruction of M-46 and M-19 in Sanilac County. While she says the funding is critical, she does want to make sure the funding is spent wisely.
“One of the things that is going to be extremely important to me is are we doing projects that are legitimate and are needed. Please, I am asking my colleagues, do not fill this bill with a bunch of pork and a wish list,” said McClain.
The processes of using earmarks to ask for these funds come after a decade-long ban. The practiced was abandoned after the so-called "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska when $233 million dollars was earmarked for a bridge to an Alaskan island with a population of 50 people.
One way lawmakers are trying to combat frivolous spending is requiring letters of support from state or local leaders.
“We just can’t let everything be politicized and everything be an endless fight. Let’s coming together to fix our roads,” said Levin.