On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, conversations about an announcement by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of electric vehicle charging infrastructure installations at Michigan state parks.
First, Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s chief mobility officer, explains why several Michigan state agencies are collaborating with private industry to provide charging options along the Lake Michigan shore for travelers from in and out of state.
The announcement follows last year’s roll out by the governor of plans for a Lake Michigan Electric Vehicle Circuit.
In his role with the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, Pawl works hard to bring together private industry and government officials to find solutions to mobility challenges, including range anxiety.
Pawl explains why Rivian, an electric vehicle maker and automotive technology company, under an operating agreement between Adopt a Charger and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, will be providing open-network, Level 2 Rivian Waypoints chargers at no cost to the state or taxpayers.
He also underscores how identifying creative partnerships and opportunities can help with significant progress “in creating a safer, more equitable and environmentally conscious transportation future for all Michiganders.”
Later, Ed Golder, director of communications at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, explains how the partnership will work. He also talks about why it makes sense, given the number of people who visit Michigan state parks each year. He says visits to the parks soared during the pandemic and officials expect the trend to continue.
From the governor’s news release on the announcement:
From Warren Dunes State Park in the southwest corner of the Lower Peninsula, north along the Lake Michigan “gold coast” and additional points inland, an estimated total of 30 chargers are scheduled to be installed as part of the first phase of the project with the next installations beginning in summer and continuing through the year.
“This project will not only benefit Michigan in the near term but will also pay dividends far into the future as we move toward a sustainable energy future,” DNR Director Dan Eichinger said. “From these EV charging stations, to installations of solar arrays that power fish hatcheries and other facilities, to building with mass timber and our innovative carbon sequestration development, we are working to improve the environment as we update our own portfolio.”
“Today’s announced partnership between the DNR and Adopt a Charger fits nicely with MDOT's goal to enhance connectivity," said Michigan Department of Transportation Director Paul C. Ajegba. "This also compliments the ongoing work by MDOT and our colleagues in other state departments to deliver on a vision for a Lake Michigan Electric Vehicle Circuit.”
Podcast photo: Electric vehicle charging options being installed at a State Park along Lake Michigan.
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, a discussion about the inspection and maintenance of aging bridges in the wake of a report of a man falling through a pedestrian bridge over a freeway in Detroit.
Matt Chynoweth, chief bridge engineer for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), joins the podcast to explain the federal guidelines for the inspection and rating of all bridges on the National Bridge Inventory (NBI) and how his team works with other road agencies and contractors to ensure bridges are safe.
The MDOT website includes an interactive feature that shows the location of bridges across the state along with information about age, condition and the date of the last inspection. A newly added page provides inspection data on more than 70 Detroit-area pedestrian bridges over state trunkline routes.
Chynoweth underscores, again, that if any bridge, whether it carries vehicles or pedestrians, is found to be a danger, it will be closed.
In the wake of a bridge collapse in Pittsburgh earlier this year, reporting focused on national bridge conditions. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), one in three U.S. bridges either needs repairs or to be replaced.
Chynoweth echoes what many others have said: The lack of bridge funding is part of a broader problem with underinvestment in our transportation system. Michigan's per-capita transportation spending has lagged behind other Midwest states for decades. This has compounded the challenge of upgrading our bridge conditions. How big is the challenge? MDOT estimates it would require $2 billion just to get all state-owned bridges up to good or fair condition, and another $1.5 billion for local agency owned bridges.
Podcast photo of a pedestrian bridge in Detroit.
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, an update on Rebuilding Michigan road and bridge projects across the state as the 2022 construction season begins in earnest.
First, Gregg Brunner, director of MDOT’s Bureau of Field Services, talks about how the department, consultants, and contractors mitigated challenges from spring weather as well as supply chains and labor availability. He also offers progress reports on several high-profile road projects.
Later, MDOT Finance Director Patrick McCarthy makes a repeat appearance to outline the Rebuilding Michigan bonding program and explain how it benefits the state.
Brunner talks about several high-profile projects that involve completely rebuilding busy segments of freeways including:
In his overview of the bonding program, McCarthy explains why the ratings agencies looked so favorably on the sales and how they sold at a premium.
He also explains how, with recent increases in the costs of materials and labor, MDOT’s issuance of the first rounds of bonds were especially timely and produced even more savings than previously expected. Looking in the bond sales also helped avoid some of the increases from inflation.
Podcast photo: I-69/I-475 interchange Rebuilding Michigan project in Flint.
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, conversations with two academics studying the effect of safety messages on driver behavior.
First, Joshua Madsen, a professor of accounting and behavioral economics at the University of Minnesota, talks about a research report he co-authored — and highlighted in the Journal Science — that examined whether highway signs displaying traffic deaths reduce crashes.
In the second segment, Jerry Ullman, a senior research engineer at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, talks about a perspective he wrote to accompany the story in Science.
Madsen explains how he first encountered the messages while driving in Illinois and was struck by the starkness of the numbers. He wondered about context and how the numbers were derived.
As outlined in the story:
"Researchers focused on Texas, which consistently displayed the messages for one week every month on 880 signs across the state’s highways. Researchers gathered data on all traffic crashes that happened on affected roads between 2010 and 2017. They compared crashes that occurred in weeks when fatality stats were displayed with those that happened during the rest of the month, taking care to compare only the accidents that happened at the same hour and on the same day of the week. They also controlled for weather and for holidays, which can independently affect the number of crashes. "
While conceding the difficulty of researching these topics, determining cause and affect and discerning what and when messages can influence behavior, Madsen cites one initiative with resonance: placing the wreckage of vehicles, which had been driven by a teenager, at rest areas.
During his segment, Ullman talks about whether the effect of higher fatality numbers is plausible and questioned whether drivers are really processing larger and smaller death rates differently. He says he would like to see more research on the cause of the increase.
Ullman also talks about the importance of message design and other research on how optimism bias informs our judgment.
Podcast player photo: MDOT Dynamic Message Sign board displaying a safety message.
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, conversations with two State of Michigan officials about the announcement of an agreement with the National Park Service (NPS) to work together and develop programs for more sustainable and equitable travel to NPS lands.
The announcement coincided with other Earth Week events across the state and featured a visit from Charles F. Sams III, who was sworn in Dec. 16, 2021, as NPS director, the first tribal citizen to lead the service in its 106-year history.
(Video story of the event.)
First, Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s chief mobility officer, explains the potential opportunities from the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) announced Tuesday, April 19, between NPS and several state departments.
Some of the possibilities include installing more charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, something NPS has already begun.
Later, Jean Ruestman, who directs MDOT’s Office of Passenger Transportation and a key player in developing the MOU, joins the podcast to talk about the potential to provide broader accessibility to the parks.
She also explains how the Michigan Mobility Challenge, highlighted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2019, could provide a model for inspiring ideas to increase access to the national parks.
Podcast photo: Morning fog in Yellowstone River Valley. National Park Service photo by Neal Herbert.
With prices of goods and services up across the board, it is no surprise that inflation is also affecting road and bridge building projects.
Road agencies across the country are facing higher prices for materials. Labor costs have also risen with a demand for skilled workers, challenging employers across all sectors and affecting the cost of home building like other construction.
This week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast is the 100th episode. The guest is Brad Wieferich, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Bureau of Development, who talks about how the hundreds of projects in the works or planned across the state will continue this year despite the pressures of inflation.
Wieferich also explains that there’s no evidence that the Rebuilding Michigan bonding plan is the reason for the inflation, which is not unique to Michigan as outlined in data published by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.
The higher prices are the result of a “perfect storm” as the pandemic, war in Ukraine and decades of disinvestment (meaning the longer we delay maintaining and building infrastructure, the more it costs) have taken a toll.
While emphasizing that this year’s MDOT projects remain on track, Wieferich explained that if prices continue to rise, planners may have to make adjustments to future projects in the five-year program.
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, questions and explanations about the increasing frequency of melting ice falling from the Mackinac Bridge cables, creating hazards for motorists and the need to close the bridge for many hours at a time. This video illustrates the danger.
As this record shows, closures because of falling ice have happened with increasing frequency.
First, Matt Chynoweth, chief bridge engineer at the Michigan Department of Transportation, explains what causes the big chunks of ice to come crashing down and the challenges other bridge operators across the country and world have had in managing the problem.
In Toledo, the Ohio Department of Transportation has been forced to close the Veterans Glass City Skyway over the Maumee River because of falling ice.
Chynoweth also explains the challenge in striking a balance between the cost of delays to travelers and the expensive solutions being discussed elsewhere.
Later, James Lake, MDOT North Region media relations representative who also supports the Mackinac Bridge Authority, talks about his efforts in explaining the issues to media outlets and social media users.
Podcast photo: Ice builds up on the iconic green Mackinac Bridge cables.
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, a semi-regular conversation with Lloyd Brown, formerly director of communications at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and now with the consulting firm, HDR.
Fuel tax pauses
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s veto of a bill to pause the state tax on gas and diesel fuel. Meanwhile, the governor signaled support for a temporary freeze on the sales tax on fuel.
Governors and lawmakers in several other states are implementing or debating similar measures, but Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said this week he would not support lowering his state’s 24.8 cent gas tax.
Transit infrastructure building costs
An in-depth look by Marketplace at the soaring cost of building transit infrastructure in the U.S. According to a 2021 Eno Center analysis, the U.S. spent an average of 50 percent more on a per-mile basis for both at-grade and tunnel transit systems than other peer countries. Highways and roads are costly, too.
From the story: “We do spend a lot more money here in this country, and it seems to be particularly acute in New York. But the kind of a cost per mile of building new transit, you know, is substantially higher than other developed countries with similar economies and democratic structures,” said Paul Lewis, policy director of the Eno Center for Transportation, a nonprofit think tank.
The reasons are many and varied, but one expert cites the attention to ongoing maintenance and rebuilding that is prioritized in other countries.
“In Paris, for instance, they’ve been continually building and improving and upgrading and expanding their [subway] system, you know, for about a century now. While in New York, we basically took 60 to 70 years off, and we’re not sort of maintaining our system,” Eric Goldwyn, assistant professor and program director of the transportation and land use program at NYU Marron, told Marketplace.
Electric vehicles (EVs) and saving lives
A major shift to EVs and a clean power grid in the U.S. could save tens of thousands of lives over the next few decades, according to a new report by the American Lung Association.
A story in The Verge says a drop in pollution from tailpipes and power plants would prevent up to 110,000 premature deaths by 2050, the report projects. It would also avoid 2.8 million asthma attacks and 13.4 million lost workdays. All in all, that would amount to $1.2 trillion in public health benefits.
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, a focus on the challenge road agencies face trying to make repairs at a faster pace than the pavement deteriorates.
First, Chad Livengood, senior editor at Crain’s Detroit Business with a long track record reporting on transportation policy and funding in Michigan, talks about his takeaways from an in-depth story (subscription) posted this week that explores the real needs for roads and bridges owned by the state’s 616 road agencies.
Later, Craig Newell, administrator of MDOT’s statewide planning division, talks about his division’s work in monitoring pavement condition and helping with long-term decisions about investments and projects.
Gov. Whitmer’s Rebuilding Michigan plan investing an additional $3.5 billion into state trunklines (M, US, and I-routes) is aimed at staving off deterioration and keeping more pavement in the good category.
Livengood cites data from the Transportation Asset Management Council that shows how Michigan’s 2015 road funding legislation did not solve the decades-long problem of underinvestment in transportation infrastructure.
Livengood also recalls previous reporting that detailed the growth of outer ring suburbs and the demands they create for more publicly financed infrastructure. He asks again, "Can we afford it as we struggle to maintain what we have?" He also recalls this previous commentary: Want to fix roads? Start with the damn term limits.
Following Livengood, MDOT’s Newell explains the importance of closely monitoring pavement and applying sound asset management principles to determine what kind of fix is best, whether it’s preventive maintenance, resurfacing or completely rebuilding a road.
Newell also explains how MDOT became a national leader in asset management in 1997 and is still pioneering innovative efforts today.
This week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast puts a spotlight on the project transforming I-375, a stub freeway built six decades ago, piercing the City of Detroit and displacing whole neighborhoods in the era of urban renewal.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Director Paul C. Ajegba, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and interested parties this week at a roundtable discussion after MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). This follows thorough documentation and review of public comments, which is the final National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) decision document. The document describes why the I-375 improvement project will not have any significant environmental impacts expected to occur upon implementation of the selected alternative design.
Tony Migaldi of the infrastructure design firm HNTB is managing the project in consultation with MDOT planners and engineers. He joins the podcast to talk about the significance of this week’s milestone, the work that brought the project to this point, and what lies ahead.
Migaldi talks about the amount of listening that went into the process and the robust engagement with the owners of businesses along the corridor and the residential neighbors. He also discusses excess property that will be freed up with a conversion of a sunken freeway to an at-grade urban boulevard, which will include options for cyclists and pedestrians and connections that were lost to the freeway.
This animation offers an idea of what to expect with the finished product.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who has some family history in the neighborhoods lost to the freeway, spoke on the podcast previously about what the project could mean to the city and acknowledging mistakes of the past. When work to build I-375 began in 1959, the thriving black neighborhoods of Black Bottom and Paradise Valley were demolished to make way for the freeway. Built through a thriving Hastings Street, the new I-375 opened in 1964 and created a barrier between the central business district in Detroit and the neighborhoods to the east, resulting in decades of underinvestment and a lack of opportunity for the predominantly Black communities on the other side of the freeway.
This week’s edition of the Talking Michigan Transportation podcast features conversations about the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) initiative to bundle bridge projects together to make them more cost effective.
First, Rebecca Curtis, deputy chief bridge engineer at MDOT, explains how the program stretches taxpayer dollars to help some local road agencies make major improvements on their bridges.
Curtis explains the need for the program because of the growing need as funding has not kept up with the wear and decline in bridge conditions. She also explains MDOT’s role in oversight of local bridge inspections and quality assurance as required by the Federal Highway Administration.
You can track progress on the projects on MDOT’s online dashboard.
Later, Wayne Harrall, deputy managing director of engineering at the Kent County Road Commission and a former member of a regional bridge council, offers a local agency perspective on the bundling concept.
Harrall explains how a sound asset management plan has allowed his agency to stretch the dollars and maintain bridges even in Michigan’s decades-long challenged transportation funding environment. He also shares the reasons he’s a champion for the bridge bundling concept, saying in a news release, "This is the most supportive program from the State of Michigan for local bridges that I've ever seen. The MDOT Bureau of Bridges has engaged with local agencies from the beginning, before there was even funding allocated to the effort."
Podcast photo: Palms Road over Belle River in St. Clair County. Photo courtesy of HNTB.
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation, a conversation with Robert Davis, who retired from MDOT in 2021 after working across three administrations as a senior adviser and community engagement leader on large projects in Metro Detroit.
Sharing his passion for public service, Davis talks about his work as a senior adviser and cabinet member for former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and his work at the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) from 2007 until 2021.
Davis, who also worked for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) and the administration of former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, talks about his years working with residents and community leaders to address concerns as various projects took shape.
Reflecting on what transportation planners have learned over the years, he talks about the coming transformation of the I-375 corridor in Detroit and how projects that displaced minority residents and supplanted Black neighborhoods are viewed differently now. As discussed on a previous podcast, while discussions about restoring the I-375 corridor to an urban boulevard date back several years, the conversation has added resonance because U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has put an emphasis on connectivity and rethinking freeways.
Buttigieg emphasizes the importance of making sure "a community’s voice and input is baked into a project."
Podcast photo: Robert Davis, retired MDOT employee.
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, a conversation with Kari Martin, MDOT’s University Region planner and project manager on the tolling study requested in 2020 legislation. Also joining the conversation is Eric Morris, Michigan office lead for HNTB, the transportation consultant selected to complete the study.
Martin and Morris explain the process and why the Legislature is looking at extending the study until the end of this year, as reported in Crain’s Detroit Business last week (subscription).
Echoing comments from Reason Foundation’s Baruch Feigenbaum on a previous podcast, Martin and Morris talk about how the emergence of electric vehicles (EVs) will further reduce the already inadequate transportation revenue obtained through the motor fuel tax. EVs essentially do not pay for the roads they drive on.
Advocates observe that by moving to a more sustainable revenue source, everyone pays their fair share and it provides an opportunity to prepare Michigan's interstate and highway system for future smart infrastructure networks. These innovations offer the prospect of a transport infrastructure system that suffers less congestion, is safer, and can be maintained predictively.
Other relevant links:
A 2019 Epic-MRA poll of Michigan voter views on tolling.
Some things the study will cover, including managed lanes and how they work. https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/managelanes_primer/
Why Michigan doesn’t have tolling. Some history.
Photo: Eric Morris, Michigan office lead for HNTB. Photo courtesy of HNTB.
On this week’s edition of the Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, conversations about two significant announcements related to the future of mobility.
First, Stefan Tongur, vice president and managing director of North America for Electreon, talks about his company’s contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to deploy wireless charging infrastructure on a public street.
Later, Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s chief mobility officer, visits the podcast again and talks about a partnership announced last week between MDOT, the City of Detroit and other state and private entities for the Michigan Central Innovation District.
Tongur explains the significance of wireless charging and why it will be important as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state agencies support the auto industry’s rapid development of electric vehicles.
He says inductive charging has the potential to ease range anxiety for EV owners and reduce their cost of charging at home or at public charging stations.
"It is a privilege to be working with the State of Michigan to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles in the Motor City," said Electreon CEO Oren Ezer in the news release announcing the partnership. "This is a monumental step toward expanding our U.S. presence and team.”
Pawl talks about how the Michigan Central Innovation District will be a hub for talent, mobility innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainability, affordable housing, small business opportunities, and community engagement.
Podcast photo: Governor Gretchen Whitmer today joined Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Google Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to announce a new partnership to activate the Michigan Central Innovation District in an effort to attract and retain highly skilled talent and high-growth companies while supporting the development of neighboring neighborhoods. Photo courtesy of Gov. Whitmer's website.
This week, as meteorologists forecast a major winter storm for much of lower Michigan, the head of statewide maintenance and operations for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) talks about all the crews are doing to prepare.
Mark Geib, who is moving on to private industry after a rich 31-year career at MDOT, talks about the evolution of road maintenance work, innovations and all he’s witnessed.
He also shares an outline for what snowplow drivers and other employees are doing across the state to prepare for the storm. This includes preparation of equipment for MDOT’s fleet and for the 63 county agencies that plow state trunklines under contract. He explains why that hybrid model is unique to Michigan but saves taxpayers money because of economies of scale.
He also talks about how MDOT’s plow-naming initiative has put a spotlight on the Mi Drive site and allowed people to track the plows.
Geib’s outline for preparation for winter storms:
Prior to a storm/winter event:
As the storm/winter event approaches:
Geib also discusses innovations to limit the use of salt on the roads, including successful measures that save on the cost of salt and help protect the environment by limiting what makes its way into tributaries.
This includes another explanation of how salt loses effectiveness in extremely cold temperatures.
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, Matt Chynoweth, MDOT’s chief bridge engineer, returns to discuss what President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) means to Michigan bridges.
This conversation was already scheduled when news broke about the local bridge that collapsed in Pittsburgh. Two weeks ago, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was in Pennsylvania to announce the state would receive $1.6 billion in IIJA funds to repair or replace some 3,000 poor bridges in the state.
Michigan’s share of IIJA funds for bridges is $563 million over five years. Chynoweth explains how investments will be prioritized based on asset management principles. He also puts the funding in context with the overall needs for bridges owned by the state, counties, cities, and villages across Michigan.
Later, Chynoweth talks about work MDOT is doing with Lawrence Technological University on carbon fiber as an alternative to steel-reinforced bridges. Some pioneering work in Michigan will allow bridges to last much longer (with estimates of up to 100 years or longer) and save millions of dollars in the long term.
Chynoweth also explains how carbon fiber strands have a tensile strength comparable to steel but resist corrosion and require less maintenance over time. MDOT is deploying the materials strategically, using them on higher-volume routes. Two bridges are currently being built with carbon fiber reinforced beams as part of MDOT's massive I-94 modernization project in Detroit.
Podcast photo: Strong and durable, carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) strands are changing the way bridges are built.
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, a conversation with Nickolai Miotto, a member of Operating Engineers 324 working on the Gordie Howe International Bridge. Following his appearance, Andy Doctoroff, the point person on the project for the Michigan governor’s office, visits again to offer an update on the project’s progress.
Ahead of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2022 State of the State address next week, Miotto was featured in a video series produced to highlight components of the speech.
Miotto talks about how he made his way into the training program to become an equipment operator and what it means to be working on such an iconic project. In the video, he touts the importance of infrastructure investment to job creation and economic development and why he thinks it spells good things for the future of Michigan.
In the second segment, Doctoroff offers highlights on the project’s status, including significant work on the Michigan interchanges that will serve bridge users. He also marvels at the towers going up, which will eventually soar more than 700 feet into the sky, nearing the height of the Renaissance Center.
Doctoroff also talks about the robust engagement process to keep members of communities on both sides of the border engaged and up to date on developments.
The Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority produced this virtual tour to illustrate progress.
Podcast photo: New Gordie Howe International Bridge tower being constructed.
A year into the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) initiative to engage the public in naming snowplows across the state, an update on progress.
Shortly after MDOT launched the project in 2021, inspired by a plow-naming venture by Transport Scotland, Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist visited an elementary school in Benton Harbor where a class of fifth graders named a plow Tiger in honor of their school mascot. Gilchrist visited the school and spoke to the students shortly afterward.
On this week’s podcast, Nick Schirripa, MDOT’s Southwest Region media relations representative, talks about the project, the eye-popping numbers of submissions it inspired and why it has been a fun but important endeavor. He and Courtney Bates, a department analyst and web site administrator, worked together to create the naming contest, sort through the names and even put the names of plows on the Mi Drive site so they can be tracked in real time.
As the Detroit Free Press reported in December, ”One year and more than 15,000 possible plow monikers later, and a handful of Michigan Department of Transportation staffers say they see a light at the end of the tunnel. But the project isn't quite over.”
Schirripa talks about the interest this has generated and why it helps with education about what’s involved in clearing snow from roads in Michigan winters and how the plow-naming project helps in education efforts about safety.
This week, in the wake of an announcement about a first-of-its-kind cross-border initiative to test the feasibility of commercial drone use, Bryan Budds, deputy administrator of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) Office of Aeronautics, explains the project.
Wednesday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that Michigan and Ontario are collaborating on a technology initiative involving unmanned aerial systems (UAS), more commonly known as drones. This effort involves studying the feasibility of a commercial drone skyway in three proposed areas, including an international connection between Michigan and Ontario, southeast Michigan, and any other suitable location in the state.
The effort is a partnership between MDOT, Michigan’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, and Ontario government agencies.
Calling it a “highway in the sky,” Budds talks about myriad opportunities to explore the future of drone technology and what it could mean to commerce and the delivery of goods. He also discusses the challenging questions facing regulators as they work to balance privacy, security, safety, and innovation.
Budds also talks about how this initiative follows on other cross-border collaboration between the governments of Michigan and Ontario for demonstrations involving automated vehicles.
Other relevant links:
Podcast image is NASA's new concept image for Advanced Air Mobility. Image courtesy of NASA and can be found at https://www.nasa.gov/centers/armstrong/multimedia/imagegallery/advanced-air-mobility/new-concept-image.html.
Preliminary numbers show fatal crashes increased again in 2021 over 2020, up by about 10 percent, continuing a disturbing trend reflected in national data.
Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report detailing factors contributing to the higher death count, including speeding and a decline in seat belt use.
This week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast features a conversation with Peter Savolainen, a Michigan State University foundation professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering, who has conducted extensive research on driver behavior.
Savolainen talks about the most recent Michigan numbers that found that 1,067 people died on Michigan roads this year. As of Dec. 7, compared to a year ago, there are 101 more fatalities and 369 more serious injuries.
While travel was down nationally anywhere from 20 to 30 percent on average over calendar year 2020, Savolainen observes that most crashes were down by similar proportions, except for the most severe. He says there were pronounced increases in the number of fatal traffic crashes.
“We've been trying to understand exactly what's been driving that, and there's been a lot of discussion nationally that speed is playing a role in that to some degree,” says Savolainen.
He also talks about the troubling increase in pedestrian deaths and the possibility that, for a time, more people were walking instead of using public transit because of the pandemic. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that drivers struck and killed an estimated 6,721 people on foot last year, and “a shocking and unprecedented” 21 percent increase in the pedestrian fatality rate from 2019 to 2020 was the largest-ever annual increase as a result of traffic crashes since the government’s tracking system was established in 1975.
Among other related topics, Savolainen discusses automated enforcement technology. He says data shows conclusively that awareness of the enforcement brings down speeds.
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation, a conversation with Suzanne Schulz, the former director of planning for the City of Grand Rapids, who helped with some groundbreaking initiatives related to Complete Streets, accommodating multimodal users and breaking down barriers to access. She was also instrumental in helping to implement a statewide Complete Streets policy. She’s now urban planning practice leader at Progressive AE in Grand Rapids.
Schulz talks about implementation of road diets and other Complete Streets initiatives since legislation was adopted in 2010.
As more cities around the world incorporate protected bike lanes into their Complete Streets planning, is it something we can expect in Michigan? Studies show they enhance safety.
She also talks about the imperative for community leaders to collaborate with business owners, residents, state departments of transportation officials, and others on planning for future transportation needs.
Also discussed: inclusion of more passive storm water treatments into street design. Things like bioswales and rain gardens can significantly improve the quality of water making its way into storm water systems. Along those lines, Schulz recalls her work with the City of Grand Rapids establishing a Vital Streets framework that incorporated Complete Streets and green infrastructure.
On this week’s edition of the Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, conversations with senior Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) project manager Jonathan Loree and Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist about some key MDOT projects aimed at enhancing connections for travelers in the city of Detroit.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on Nov. 22 $1 billion in Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants, including a grant for the long-planned intermodal facility in the New Center area of Detroit. This would allow for development of new passenger rail and intercity bus facilities in Detroit to accommodate growing ridership projections.
The news comes as MDOT continues work on some other key connectivity initiatives in Detroit:
· A conversion of the I-375 freeway to an urban boulevard with safe access for pedestrians and cyclists; and
· A study to transform Michigan Avenue from I-96 through the historic Corktown neighborhood to Campus Martius Park downtown and allow safer access for other users as well as economic development.
Loree explains the projects and his work with City of Detroit officials, business owners and residents.
In a second segment, Lt. Gov. Gilchrist talks about growing up in Detroit and how rethinking transportation is aiding Detroit’s comeback. As discussed on a previous podcast, he talks about the social and environmental justice components of the I-375 project and how the same principles apply to developing the intermodal facility and rethinking Michigan Avenue.
On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, a conversation with a regular guest, Lloyd Brown. Now working for the consulting firm, HDR, Brown was previously the communications director at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
Recalling his time working for the Washington (state) Department of Transportation and then AASHTO, Brown talks about the opportunities and challenges created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed by President Biden in Michigan last week.
Brown also talks about discussions by U.S Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to incentivize rethinking some urban freeways, which when built, displaced and cut off certain residents. More transportation officials are acknowledging past mistakes made in building infrastructure that isolated communities and are pursuing plans to improve on the past, including MDOT with I-375 in Detroit.
On Tuesday, The New York Times The Daily podcast featured a conversation about similar issues with Clairborne Avenue and the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans.
Also reprised: the rising number of vehicle crashes, especially crashes resulting in serious injuries and deaths as detailed on the Nov. 10 podcast.
And a Thanksgiving acknowledgement to the staff that takes on extra duties helping to produce and post the podcast each week.
This week, as President Biden signs the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), a conversation about the historic context of the legislation and what it can mean to Michigan.
Andy Doctoroff, a Huntington Woods lawyer who teaches a class that he created at the University of Michigan Law School focusing on infrastructure, joins the conversation to offer his insights.
Doctoroff explains why he believes the $550 billion in new money authorized in the legislation is historically significant. He talks about the challenge of reaching a compromise with such heightened partisanship and the need for strong leadership to ensure the success of the program.
Comparing the approach to investing in building infrastructure in other countries, he offers insight on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a multi-trillion-dollar global infrastructure development strategy.
He also talks about how the IIJA compares to other historic infrastructure investments, including the Transcontinental Railroad, the Rural Electrification Act, and the Interstate Highway System, as outlined in this VOA video.
Emphasizing the enhanced human connectivity offered by the broadband investments, as well as the rebuilding of roads and bridges.
Later, Doctoroff, who also has a contract with the State of Michigan to help oversee construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, offers a progress update.