House set to vote on federal highway bill with $210M for Michigan projects

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
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Washington — U.S. House will take up a federal highway bill later this month that includes over $210 million in earmarked funding for Michigan highway and transit projects and $4 billion to boost adoption of electric vehicles.

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced the schedule update Thursday afternoon, saying lawmakers will vote on the $547 billion INVEST in America Act package the week of June 28.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advanced the $547 billion package by a 38-26 vote early Thursday after a markup that lasted about 19 hours. The bill, which only two Republicans supported, authorizes spending on roads, bridges, rail and public transit infrastructure projects.

Workers patch potholes on Mound Road in Sterling Heights -- file photo.

During the markup, lawmakers voted down an amendment to strike from the bill the proposed Clean Corridors program, which would strategically place EV charging and hydrogen fueling infrastructure along major national highways and the freight network in an effort to combat range anxiety.

The legislation authorizes $1 billion annually over four years for states to acquire and deploy this infrastructure along the designated corridors, and to maintain and share data about the network. States would be required to develop a plan laying out how they'll deploy their allocated funds.

The committee voted 12-52 to reject the amendment, among others, from U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pennsylvania. 

The broader legislation is a five-year surface transportation reauthorization that reflects many of the priorities in President Joe Biden's American Jobs Plan, though Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, stressed it's separate from the president's proposal. 

The bill lacks broad bipartisan support, so it's prospects in the narrowly divided Senate are not rosy. Republican lawmakers panned the package as too expensive and a partisan "blue-state giveaway" that would be "dead-on-arrival" in the upper chamber.

The EV charging station provision in particular drew criticism from GOP members who said it would be a waste of taxpayer money.

"The demand for electric vehicles in Mississippi is extremely low, but this legislation would provide previously unheard of investments in electric vehicle infrastructure and take funding away from states that don't comply," said Rep. Michael Guest, a Mississippi Republican.

The committee also incorporated 68 Michigan roads and transit projects, totaling nearly $210.5 million in earmarked spending requested by Michigan lawmakers — the first time that earmarks are returning to the highway bill since 2005, according to the Eno Center for Transportation. The funding would come from the Highway Trust Fund.

Among the higher-profile projects included is $20 million toward replacing two bridge spans on Miller Road at Rotunda Drive in Dearborn, which was submitted by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn. She said the span, built in 1931, has "has far out lived it’s safe, useful life."

"This federal funding is critical to restore and repair a pair of bridges that our workers and community rely on every single day," Dingell said. "We will continue to push for the passage of this legislation and invest in much-needed infrastructure repairs so that we can rebuild our economy and support working families.”

The package includes $18.6 million designated for a railroad-grade separation on Beck Road in Wixom (submitted by U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills), and $15 million for a grade separation on Pennsylvania Road on the border of Romulus and Huron Township (submitted by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit). 

Other high-dollar projects include the reconstruction of the U.S. 131 interchange with the business route U.S. 131 in Kalamazoo ($14.7 million requested by U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph) and $11 million for the planning and final design of the Mound Road/Detroit Arsenal Connector project, submitted by U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township.

Michigan lawmakers had submitted requests for $344.7 million in earmarked funding for 107 projects earlier this year. Not all projects were designated for funding or received the total amount that the member requested, but many did.

Michigan Democrats got 47 local projects into the bill totaling nearly $128.9 million, while Michigan Republicans got 27 projects totaling $81.6 million, according to a Detroit News analysis.

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