Washington — Michigan lawmakers are eager to hear how President Donald Trump will pay for his long-anticipated infrastructure plan and where the state’s priorities fit in.
Trump is expected to detail the plan during his first State of the Union address Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol.
Among the top infrastructure needs identified by Michigan officials are a new shipping channel at the Soo Locks, a customs plaza for the new Detroit River span to Canada and investments in high-speed broadband internet service.
“We want to make sure that our rural communities have access to the internet. It’s an economic development issue but also for families who are educating their families, as well,” Rep. John Moolenaar, a Republican who represents much of rural mid-Michigan.
High on the wish list for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has been a push replace lead service lines nationwide – a priority that grew out of the devastating water crisis in Flint. The federal government gave Flint an emergency $100 million grant to fund the replacement of damaged water lines.
Trump made infrastructure investment a major platform of his campaign, and the White House has promised a $1 trillion, 10-year plan. The administration previously described using $200 billion in taxpayer money to generate $1 trillion in private investment.
Snyder and other state governors a year ago submitted their top projects to the National Governors Association, which presented a list to the White House.
In Washington last week, Snyder said most of his infrastructure discussions with the White House occurred six months to a year ago “when they first talked about it.”
“We shared some thoughts then and contributed some ideas about key infrastructure like the Soo Locks, for example. That’s something we need to fix in Michigan for the benefit of the entire country,” Snyder said after remarks at the Washington Auto Show.
A 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found that a mechanical or structural failure at the 50-year-old Poe Lock in Sault Ste. Marie would be “catastrophic for the nation,” jeopardizing 11 million U.S. jobs and plunging the economy into recession.
“A 50-year-old piece of infrastructure could be the Achilles heel of our industrial economy in North America if it wasn’t operating, so we need to improve that,” Moolenaar said.
In addition to the Soo Locks, Michigan’s priority list included federal funding for the driverless vehicle testing site in Ypsilanti Township, the QLine commuter rail system in Detroit and the delayed expansion of a customs plaza at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron.
Snyder and the bipartisan Michigan congressional delegation have also pushed for a federal action on upgrades to the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Illinois to help prevent the invasive Asian carp from advancing to the Great Lakes.
Some Democrats worry that Trump’s plan could put states and cities in a position of paying for larger portions of project costs.
“I’ve said that I would support the president on infrastructure, but we got to put enough money to invest in it,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn.
“In Michigan, I got another flat tire last week from a pothole. And I’ve got a bridge in the City of Dearborn that’s impacting traffic into the (Ford River) Rouge plant. It’s a serious problem.”
Rep. Sandy Levin, D-Royal Oak, said he hopes Trump puts forth “workable” ideas.
“He says he’s for infrastructure, but they’re ideas that I don’t think have broad support,” Levin said.
“He wants to avoid as few public funds as possible, and I don’t think you can do it unless there’s some substantial public fund involvement.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, wrote Monday to Trump urging him to include in his proposal “robust” federal investment to fix roads and bridges, “not privatization schemes that benefit a few companies at the expense of taxpayers.”
She said more than 1,200 bridges in Michigan are rated structurally deficient and 20 percent of public roads in Michigan are in poor condition, costing drivers at least $540 in annual repair costs.
Michigan’s senior senator also highlighted aging sewer lines across the state, noting the collapsed wastewater main in Fraser where the state had to declare an emergency due to a sinkhole.
Stabenow, like Snyder, also stressed the need for attention to the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Chicago, drinking water infrastructure and the Soo Locks complex, which needs $115 million in maintenance and nearly a billion dollars to ensure long-term operations.