By DAVID EGGERT
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan state panel on Thursday authorized borrowing $3.5 billion to roughly double spending on state road and bridge construction over five years, hours after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the plan in her State of the State speech.
The State Transportation Commission unanimously approved the Rebuilding Michigan program after hearing details from the state Department of Transportation.
Spending will rise from nearly $3.9 billion to $7.3 billion over the five-year period. It will allow for 73 new projects in high-traffic areas and enable the state to covert other planned projects to reconstruction, rather than resurfacing.
The proposal would put Michigan on a course to far outpace Wisconsin’s spending on roads. The current Wisconsin budget proposed sets aside $484 million for roads. The plan is being paid for with a mixture of cash, borrowing and higher fees.
Whitmer announced the plan after the Republican-led Legislature last year rejected her proposed increase 45-cents-a-gallon fuel-tax increase. She pointed to low interest rates, noted that debt payments for old borrowing will drop significantly in coming years and said boosting construction now can save money later.
“It seems to me to be a smart, cost-effective way to address a looming crisis on our roads,” said George Heartwell, one of the panel’s six members. ‘This is not a permanent fix. We still need an increased, dedicated source of revenue from the Legislature to solve the long-term, going -forward problem. But this will put us back on track to fixing our Michigan roads.