Editorial: Step up to fix infrastructure


A recent commission formed by Gov. Rick Snyder called on lawmakers and policymakers to find $4 billion a year in new funding to update Michigan’s aging transportation, water and communications infrastructure system. It’s a big ask in a state with a $10 billion annual general fund budget. But the state’s roads, bridges and water lines can’t continue to be an afterthought.

Rebuilding Michigan’s infrastructure must be the priority. Between the Flint water crisis and the notoriously poor road conditions, the result of decades of neglect is clear.

Commissioning the report was a necessary first step. Now comes the hard part: Finding the money.

The 21st Century Infrastructure Commission, put in place after the revelation of lead in Flint water, assessed and prioritized infrastructure needs throughout the state. Those needs range from water and sewerage system replacements to transportation, energy and communications networks.

The report placed the 20-year investment gap at almost $60 billion. It contains a 50-year vision with options for funding. A mix of federal, state and local dollars — along with significant private investments from the state’s business community — can provide the best long-term solution to closing the funding gaps.

The report’s recommendations are wide-ranging, but critical. Administratively, they include creating a database to collect and report on the ongoing condition of the state’s infrastructure systems, and forming a Michigan Infrastructure Council to maintain that database and develop long-term strategic priorities and funding.

At the top of the list should be replacing aging water systems. The commission said that could cost at least $111 million per year. Some of that would go toward communities facing imminent threats in their water supply.

Other recommendations include building a new Soo Locks system, which would require investment from the federal government.

The report also calls on the state to prioritize cybersecurity and prepare its highways for autonomous vehicles.

Cybersecurity lapses, in particular, pose a huge threat to personal information, government systems, businesses and everyday interactions.

Snyder’s administration has already made significant progress in preparing the state for various cybersecurity threats, but more will be needed as technology rapidly evolves.

Snyder requested $165 million go into a new infrastructure fund this year, but the Legislature approved just $5 million.

Moving forward, more money must be devoted to this infrastructure plan to help move Michigan into the 21st century, and pay for the neglect of the 20th Century.