State Senate and Republican legislators recently voted to end a deadlock over the 2009 Michigan transportation budget, one week before the beginning of the fiscal year.
The legislative agreement broke a logjam and averted a departmental shutdown and closure of Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) construction projects around the state.
The stalemate revolved around the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) project. Senate Republicans were trying to find a way to end the DRIC study, saying that the Ambassador Bridge Company should be allowed to double span a bridge with private money rather than tie up existing public dollars.
The department and others have argued that double spanning the Ambassador Bridge is not a viable alternative because Canada opposes the location. In addition, they argue that dollars from a DRIC Bridge would be provided by the federal government and tolls generated by the new bridge, so existing Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF) dollars would not be needed.
The budget bill includes language ensuring that the state won't be bound to construct the DRIC Bridge. It states that MDOT could continue the study as long as the state wasn't locked into constructing a bridge, which will require legislative approval. The legislation allows the department to apply for permits, perform preliminary design and engineering work, utility planning and relocation, and preliminary financial and funding arrangements.
The $3.61-billion MDOT budget is $252 million over the fiscal year 2008 budget. It includes $971 million for local road agencies – $39 million less than in fiscal year 2008. There is $167.5 million in new spending this fiscal year for the Aeronautics Capital program. And $9.13 million in state and local capital facilities projects have been moved from the Capital Outlay budget to MDOT's budget. All of these appropriations are estimations based upon current revenue projections.