Zorn introduces local road agency advocate bill

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday introduced legislation as part of a 10-bill package to make important infrastructure policy reforms in Michigan.

“In the roads policy workgroups held over the summer, senators heard horror stories about local road agencies with limited resources struggling to meet the complex permitting demands of various state departments,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “My bill would put in place an advocate to help our local communities navigate the bureaucratic process — streamlining permitting time and costs for local governments.”

Senate Bill 522 would establish a local road agency advocate to be appointed by the Transportation Asset Management Council. The advocate’s primary functions would be to assist local road agencies in the permitting process with any state agency and help the local agencies with developing plans to comply with federal requirements.

The Senate Republican road policy reforms would also:
• Require the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to increase transparency about individual road projects;
• Improve our current road warranty program to provide better value;
• Maximize the use of federal transportation funding that the state receives;
• Require MDOT to study the feasibility of tolls on Michigan bridges or roadways;
• Improve collaboration between the state and local roads agencies by extending local asset management horizons and ensuring MDOT continues to supply long-range plans;
• Require MDOT to develop a road construction inflation index to measure changes in cost within the highway construction industry annually;
• Take steps to stop abuse of farming and logging vehicle registrations; and
• Require local units of government, when adding new roads to their system or planning new infrastructure, to include how maintenance will be paid for.

“This is a road policy reform package aimed at maximizing road funding efficiency,” said Sen. Tom Barrett, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “These reforms resulted from several workgroup meetings this summer and are about improving policies so that local and state agencies can better meet our road infrastructure needs.”