Michigan set to receive $563M in federal aid for bridge repairs, replacements

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — Michigan is set to receive $563.1 million over five years for bridge repairs and replacement under the bipartisan infrastructure package, the White House said. 

The funding comes from the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Congress passed last year, with the bridge program now being launched by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The first tranche of funding has now been released to the states. 

The announcement came as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she was creating a new Infrastructure Office to oversee the effective and efficient use of funds from the bipartisan package.

The new office will be responsible for executing the governor's "vision" for infrastructure by coordinating across state government and partnering with local official, federal partners, outside stakeholders, according to a news release.

"By establishing this office, we can move full steam ahead toward continuing to improve commutes, keep families safe on the road, and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs," Whitmer said in a statement.

The White House said the bridge program, overseen by the Federal Highway Administration, will be the largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system.

It will send $26.5 billion to states over the five years of the law, including $5.3 billion for the current fiscal year or $112.6 million for Michigan this year. 

The federal bridge funding will need to be appropriated by the state Legislature, so Whitmer's budget office plans to work with state lawmakers on a supplemental bill to the current fiscal year 2022 budget, said Kurt Weiss, a state budget office spokesman. 

"So we hope to begin work with the Legislature to start getting this money appropriated to fix our roads and bridges very soon," Weiss said.

Paul Ajegba, left, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, tour a bridge at Miller and Rotunda in Dearborn, Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

The bridge program is expected to help repair an estimated 15,000 highway bridges across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in addition to transferring funds to states to replace, rehabilitate, preserve or build highway bridges. The program also has dedicated funding for “off system” bridges that are generally locally-owned facilities not on the federal-aid highway system, officials said.   

The bipartisan bill incorporated an incentive for states to direct new bridge funds to off-system bridges owned by a county, municipality or other local agency. DOT officials said that while states will usually have to provide up to 20% of state or local matching funds, new guidance issued Friday indicates that these federal funds may be used for 100% of the cost of repairing or rehabilitating locally owned off-system bridges.  

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, applauded the funding, calling it a "game-changer" and saying it would "transform how Michiganders get around the state and strengthen the safety of our bridges for future generations."

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, noted the United States ranks 13th in the world in infrastructure quality, "which is what makes this federal investment essential."

"The bipartisan infrastructure law will bolster our economy by rebuilding roads and bridges that are in desperate need of repair and create good-paying jobs along the way," Peters said in a statement. 

Congress cleared the bipartisan infrastructure package in November. Under the bill, Michigan was estimated to receive at least $8 billion in federal funding over five years for highway and bridge projects, including $7.3 billion from federal highway programs, according to estimates by the White House based on transportation funding formulas. 

The state may also compete for additional funding from the package's $12.5 billion program for economically significant bridges and roughly $16 billion intended for major projects with economic benefits for communities.

Michigan is expected to receive an additional $1 billion over five years to improve public transit options under the measure.