Mich. to tackle infrastructure woes with pilot program

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Detroit — Communities in southeast and western Michigan will be part of a year-long pilot program that will create a system that combines data on transportation, water, sewer and utility assets, Gov. Rick Snyder announced Monday.

Michigan Department of Transportation director Kirk T. Steudle said the proposed asset management program works to centralize infrastructure data so everyone knows, for example, where utility lines or drainage pipes are located.

“Asset management is about doing the right repair at the right time at the right place,” Steudle said.

The benefits include cost savings, possible job creation and less road work, officials say.

“We need to invest more in infrastructure, but we need to do it more efficiently,” Snyder said during a panel discussion at MDOT’s operations center in Detroit. “The concept here is, how do we get smarter about coordinating that work, so if we’re going to tear up that road, let’s do multiple forms of work all at the same time.”

The pilot will be led by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and include information from various agencies and municipalities. There will also be information on age, ownership, condition and service life of infrastructure.

Officials say they still need to determine how data in the asset management system will be protected.

And Snyder and Steudle said it’s unclear how much the pilot program will cost, but it will be funded primarily by taxpayer dollars and agencies dedicating their resources.

Snyder said the pilot was among the recommendations from his 21st Century Infrastructure Commissioner, which was launched last year to identify long-term strategies for keeping Michigan's infrastructure safe and efficient.

Officials in southeast and west Michigan were eager to be a part of the pilot project, Steudle said. It covers 55 percent of the state’s urban, suburban and rural population.

Wayne County Public Services Director Beverly Watts said the proposed system would prevent officials from having to guess what is under the ground when planning development.

Watts noted that 39 percent of roads in Michigan are in poor condition and that 1,200 bridges are structurally deficient.

“Having an asset management plan in place means improving our infrastructure system,” Watts said Monday. “We will have all the information needed to make informed, strategic decisions on where our investments are needed so we can ensure strong and healthy infrastructure for our communities, our residents and our businesses.”

The pilot will make recommendations in one year on how the statewide asset management system should be rolled out.

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Twitter: @NicquelTerry