Thanks to the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission, Michigan’s future is in good hands

By Ryan Burklow | @burklow_ryan

December 6, 2016

The 21st Century Infrastructure Commission released their report Monday, Dec. 5, and to recognize the achievement, top state officials and members of the commission gathered in three different Michigan cities to detail specifics of the report.

Gov. Rick Snyder was joined by Commission Chair Evan Weiner and other members of the Commission in Dearborn. Concurrently, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and Department of Technology, Management and Budget Director David Behen — both joined by commissioners as well — presented the report to all those in attendance in Grand Rapids and Marquette respectively.

This report is essentially a roadmap to providing all Michigan residents with an enhanced quality of life. Upon understanding exactly what this report is, many realize that this is potentially one of the most important plans in the history of Michigan. The fact that Michigan is the first state in the country to call upon a commission to study infrastructure systems across all regions of the state is nothing short of extraordinary.

To fully understand the gravity of this bold and visionary plan, one must first understand exactly what infrastructure is. Infrastructure systems are essentially the backbone of every state and are made up of many different things that contribute to a state’s success. The 21st Century Infrastructure Commission decided to focus on water systems, transportation, energy and communications. These are all things that many people may simply take for granted, and in Michigan these are all things that have been put on the back burner in the past.

“We can no longer ignore the problems facing our state’s infrastructure,” Snyder said. “This Commission has developed recommendations to ensure Michigan has safe, reliable, and affordable infrastructure systems that will make this state a better place today, tomorrow and 50 years from now.”

Improving the state’s infrastructure is a serious responsibility for all Michiganders — the Commission was made up of individuals from all types of backgrounds and all regions of the state and all types of industries. The Commission met with residents at listening tour stops all over Michigan, and took into consideration suggestions from all those who voiced an opinion.

“When the 27 individuals of this Commission first met in April, we discussed how our goal was to deliver a plan that will create 21st century infrastructure systems across the state in order to help enhance the quality of life for all Michigan residents,” Weiner said. “That means better paying jobs, healthier communities, and a stronger foundation for our kids in every region of the state.”

To ensure that Michigan is a leader in the way it invests in the future of the state’s infrastructure systems, the Commissions has recommended a Michigan Infrastructure Council and a statewide asset management system — to help coordinate and plan infrastructure across the 3,300 entities that currently manage infrastructure in Michigan.

The bold and revolutionary report outlines more than 100 recommendations aimed at addressing key components that make up the state’s infrastructure systems.

Water Systems

One of the Commissions’ chief recommendations concerning the state’s water systems is properly investing in the replacement of aging water, sewer and stormwater infrastructures. The Commission hopes to achieve this by performing regular assessments and maintenance of Michigan’s drinking water, sewer, stormwater and dam infrastructures, and adapting policies that require self-sufficient and transparent budgets.

The Commission has also laid out plans to design and build water systems using the best available technologies, develop integrated and sustainable approaches to managing the quantity and quality of stormwater and revise regulations to provide safe, affordable drinking water and wastewater disposal.

Transportation

For nearly half-a-century the challenges facing the transportation systems in Michigan have not been fully addressed, and the results speak for themselves. Currently, 39 percent of the state’s roads are in poor condition and 1,200 Michigan bridges are structurally deficient.

The Commission has recommended investing in roads and bridges to ensure they are in good or fair condition and the state’s roads, bridges, and culverts are designed to protect public health and strengthen our economy. By upgrading Michigan’s road conditions and maintaining the state’s status as a global leader in intelligent vehicle technologies, the state’s goal of zero deaths on the roads becomes much more attainable.

Along with their recommendations for the state’s bridges and roads, the 27-person commission has also made several recommendations that cover all of Michigan’s transportation systems. The commission recommends a robust transit network that will meet the needs of both urban and rural communities, constructing a new Soo lock to eliminate the potential for a long-term shutdown, assessing aviation needs across, and reexamining existing funding mechanisms and the potential for new funding options to build strong, healthy communities for residents and businesses.

Energy

As Michigan continues to move farther into the 21st century, it is critical that the state’s energy needs are taken into consideration. The Commission’s plans outline ways for Michigan to ensure adequate capacity resources are available, meet 30 percent of the state’s energy needs with clean renewable resources, reduce energy outages, accelerate plans to replace out-of-date natural gas delivery systems, and expand opportunities for new businesses and energy-intensive industries to choose Michigan.

Communications

There are nearly half-a-million Michigan households without access to advanced broadband. Communities without access to broadband have trouble retaining and attracting young talent. They also face a barrier trying to connect to the 21st century economy.

The Commission plans to help make Michigan a smarter state by leading in the development of new technologies and the creation of smart environments and communities. The establishment of the Michigan Consortium on Advanced Networks is one of the key recommendations aimed to enact a digital transformation in Michigan.

Thanks to the diligent work of all 27 commissioners and the residents who took the time to voice their concerns for their state’s 21st century infrastructure needs, Michigan will lead the nation in creating infrastructure systems that will include innovative technology, sustainable funding solutions, sound economic principles and a collaborative and integrated asset management and investment approach that will enhance Michigander’ quality of life and build strong communities for generations to come.

To learn more about the commission, or to read the full report visit: www.miinfrastructurecommission.com.