- Associated Press - Monday, June 9, 2014

Daily Press (Escanaba) June 3.

Patience needed in construction zones

With Memorial Day behind us, we are, unofficially, in the Summer Tourism Season here in the Upper Peninsula. With that, we are officially in the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Summer Construction Season.

As anyone who has been traveling on M-26 through Ripley is well aware, road construction can cause delays and some stress to motorists.

The Ripley Project has reduced the heavily-traveled roadway to a single lane with flagman control, adding extra minutes to the trip.

Let’s face it, few people in our area have lengthy commutes so a five-minute or so delay due to construction isn’t life-impacting.

That said, a construction delay while running late for work, class or an important meeting, can cause stress and even carelessness.

MDOT reminds motorists that fines in construction zones are doubled and as many as 5 points can be assessed on your license for speeding in a construction zone. Penalties for killing or injuring a construction or highway maintenance worker range from one to 15 years with fines as high as $7,500.

The key to safety, of course is to take your time. Allow yourself more than enough time to make to where you need to go.

Also, keep in mind there are construction projects going on throughout the U.P. and the entire state. Thankfully, MDOT makes it quite easy to locate these projects and their impact on motorists. Visit michigan.gov/mdot.

After the brutal winter, we all feel a long and enjoyable summer is due us. With a bit of planning and patience it can be a safe summer as well.

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Detroit Free Press. June 4.

OK of Detroit bankruptcy deal shows Michigan lawmakers get it

Lansing, take a bow.

The state Senate Tuesday approved a package of bills crucial to resolving Detroit’s historic bankruptcy, protecting the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts and shoring up the pensions of city retirees. Approved by the state House nearly two weeks ago, the bills are now en route to Gov. Rick Snyder, who is expected to sign them into law.

It’s an exceptional effort from a Legislature that’s too often fractious. It’s also a vote of confidence, not only from lawmakers, but Michiganders across the state, who consistently told pollsters that they support grand bargain - the $816-million deal (comprising funds pledged by the state, philanthropic foundations and the DIA itself).

For a city that’s too often the butt of jokes and derision, it’s a heartening show of solidarity.

“The only thing separating Detroit from Michigan is a comma,” state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

We’ll go one step further: Detroit is the state’s principal city. Period. Even after decades of population decline, Detroit is home to more Michiganders than any other city in the state.

These things matter: the lives of retirees, many of whom would face steep, impoverishing pension cuts, in the absence of the grand bargain funds. The DIA, the most important cultural asset in the state. The health of Detroit, without which the State of Michigan can’t claim success.

Lawmakers - most of them, at any rate - got it.

In the state House, most of the 10 bills in the grand bargain package passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. In four instances, at least 100 of the House’s 110 members voted to approve them.

Bills to create oversight for Detroit passed the Senate by wide majorities; the crucial bill - detailing a one-time state payment to Detroit of $194.8 million - passed 21-17, a much narrower margin. Lawmakers also voted down a House bill that would have prevented local voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties from renewing a 10-year operating millage for the DIA, approved by voters in all three counties in 2012.

We’ll take it.

Richardville made it clear that such a requirement was unacceptable: “It was strange that the Legislature would be telling the city that we’re not going to let local governments make their own decisions, or have a vote of their own people.”

Snyder, too, deserves credit. The governor first pitched this aid package in January, with the support of Richardville and state House Speaker Jase Bolger, and was unequivocal in his insistence that this deal got done.

There’s more to come. Retirees are now voting on pension adjustments proposed by Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr: A 4 percent cut to monthly benefits and the elimination of scheduled cost-of-living adjustments for civilian retirees, and a drop in COLA from 2.4 percent to 1.5 percent for police and fire retirees, who will see no monthly benefit cuts. About 15 percent of retirees have returned ballots, Orr said last week, with a ratio of roughly 2-1 voting in favor of the deal.

Some of Detroit’s creditors are still agitating against this deal, saying that the DIA’s city-owned art collection should be plundered, that priceless art should be sold for a pittance to mitigate their losses. It’s an obscene proposal. Those creditors had attempted to strengthen their case by saying the grand bargain was “grandiose.” Well, the deal’s just about done.

And it’s all still subject to the approval of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes. Because the grand bargain is the work of his mediator, Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen, we’re hopeful it will receive Rhodes’ blessing. That will be settled at Detroit’s bankruptcy plan of adjustment confirmation hearing, set to start July 24. But for now, we’re just satisfied that one very important piece of this complicated puzzle has fallen into place.

_____

Grand Haven Tribune. June 2.

Bridges and roads need to be given appropriate funds

Once the pride of our country, our nation’s highway system has seen better days.

This is especially true here in Michigan, where it seems like everywhere you drive, there are examples of crumbling infrastructure.

From roads littered with potholes, to bridges that have reduced load limits due to poor structural integrity, there’s quite a big problem facing our state’s roads.

And a recent report issued by the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association indicates as much.

Statewide analysis by the association reviewed bridge conditions on 10,929 state and local bridges, and the results were not good news for our cars, or our bridges.

According to the report, 1 in 4 were either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. This should be unacceptable to Michigan taxpayers.

We must urge our lawmakers to make road funding a top priority. There is no reason why Michigan - considered by many to be a leader in the automotive world - should have such decrepit bridges and roads.

Our local Road Commission said they rely on funding from the state to make fixes to these bridges.

Something needs to be done in Lansing to provide a better, more consistent funding stream so that our transit infrastructure gets the attention it deserves.

While special allocations here and there might get the job done of repairing what’s wrong right now, we should focus on getting a solution in place to make sure we can repair our roads and bridges on a consistent basis.

It’s the right thing to do.

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The Mining Journal (Marquette). June 4.

Motorized use an experiment for Heritage trail

There will be some changes to the Iron Ore Heritage Trail this season, with westbound parts of the trail to differ from its traditional use.

The Iron Ore Heritage Recreation Authority plans to add five more miles of trail, spending about $400,000 this summer ($281,00 of which will come from a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant) to clear and grade two sections of the trail in Republic and Tilden townships. Those sections then will be surfaced with crushed limestone.

What makes these parts of the trail different from past trail projects is that they will be open to motorized as well as non-motorized use.

IOHRA administrator Carol Fulsher likened this scenario to a “guinea pig.” How will the two types of uses be managed? That remains to be seen, she said.

The authority will let multiple uses take place on the same trail because much of those trail sections will cross wetlands using an existing grade that’s too narrow, precluding the use of a side-by-side trail with a barrier in between.

The existing dirt trail travels west from Ishpeming through Tilden, Ely and Humboldt townships before turning south through Republic Township. The historic Republic bank building will be the trailhead and southern terminus.

The trail section passing through Ely and Humboldt will stay the same for now because a recreation tax levy of .2 mill for building and maintaining part of the Ely portion failed in 2013.

Republic Township is being proactive to acquire grant money to renovate the bank building with handicap-accessible restrooms, with IOHRA pledging up to $25,000 in matching funds to help the township.

Nearby areas might be improved as well. Republic Township’s recreation committee also is looking into creating campground space, rental piers and a boardwalk in nearby Munson Park and on the north side of School Lake, which borders the trail.

With limited funds and and geographic limitations, the authority has to adapt to make the best and all-inclusive use of the trail.

To some, motorized travelers using the same stretch as bicyclists might conjure up images of accidents and at the very least a few verbal altercations.

However, we’d like to think people, particularly trail users, are for the most part reasonable, and should support the authority’s efforts to make the Iron Ore Heritage Trail truly a multi-use trail.


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