LASATA: Modernizing Michigan’s infrastructure, bridges

Published 3:55 pm Friday, August 6, 2021

The condition of roads and bridges has long been a discussion throughout the state and is something that often comes up when I speak with constituents. In recent years, I have supported measures to improve our roads. While those discussions continue, we are now working on ways we can take care of some other much-needed infrastructure repairs.

Recently, I had an opportunity to join St. Joseph County Road Commission Director John Lindsey on a tour and informal inspection of some of the 21st District’s bridges. In addition to the state’s roads, bridges are a critical piece of Michigan’s aging infrastructure and have been a key focus in Lansing in recent months.

Senate Bill 529, which I supported, would use $1.3 billion in federal money to repair bridges in severe condition across the state. This would not only help make necessary repairs to the state’s aging bridges, but it also would take a huge financial burden off the shoulders of local governments and road agencies.

Of the nearly 12,000 bridges in Michigan, 7,038 are managed by local municipalities. Of that number, more than 400 are in critical need of repairs, including 15 bridges in Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties.

I also had an opportunity to tour the 110-year-old Sturgis Hydroelectric Dam and see first-hand the internal workings of the historic landmark. The dam was built in the early 1900s and is largely responsible for bringing growth to the area. Despite its consistent operation and landmark status, the dam uses aging technology, leaving room for a number of functional
improvements.

After the mid-Michigan dam failures last year, there have been ongoing discussions to quantify the need for dam repairs across the state, as well as ways to fund these much-needed public safety projects.

Instead of going to taxpayers for money, we introduced legislation that would use $680 million in federal funding to create loan and grant programs aimed at making meaningful repairs to dams across the state. This one-time federal funding focuses on repairing the most critical dams and is a major step forward for our water infrastructure, as well as the environment and the safety of communities across Michigan.

These measures will help boost infrastructure repairs and make our communities safer. I am proud to stand behind both measures and will continue working to get them to the governor’s desk.