Road agencies see savings if winter proves mild

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — With predictions of a mild winter ahead, some county road commissions anticipate that savings on fuel and road salt will funnel into spring road projects such as pothole repair.

According to National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration predictions for December through February, Michigan’s winter has a greater than 50 percent chance of above-average temperatures and a 40 percent chance to be less snowy than average.

In the meantime, a delayed start to colder temperatures and snowfall is giving the commissions a chance to “catch their breath” from the workloads of past winters and catch up on road maintenance, said Dirk Heckman, the manager and engineer at the Mackinac County Road Commission.
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More schools move to private bus services

By MICHAEL KRANSZ
Capital News Service

LANSING — The number of Michigan school districts contracting out at least a part of their transportation services increased 150 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to a think tank survey.

The survey by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland recorded 78 school districts opting for some privatized transportation services during that time, in addition to 53 already contracting out.

There are about 540 districts in the state, according to the Department of Education. And while some districts are contracting out only a portion of the service, such as employment, most are privatizing their whole bus operation, said James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the center.
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Special lane designations would increase mass transit efficiency

By STEPHANIE HERNANDEZ McGAVIN

Capital News Service

LANSING — A new bill to allow local transit agencies to construct Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes on state highways would make mass transit more efficient, advocates say.

The bill would qualify any highway marked as a M-, U.S.- or I- route for BRT lanes.

Rep. Sam Singh, an East Lansing Democrat who introduced the bill, said the BRT concept is relatively new to the state and the proposal would help designate the personal bus lane required for rapid transit and allow the state to work with local agencies in creating such lanes.
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State will test more high-speed rails

By YUEHAN LIU
Capital News Service

LANSING—Part of the Michigan passenger rail service goes 110 miles an hour, but not all of it. Next year the state will test additional tracks to support that speed along the Amtrak route between Detroit and Chicago.

“We have three Amtrak trains that run from Michigan to Chicago and the rider shift numbers are continuing to go up,” Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), said.

“And we are improving the rail line. So 110 is our goal to enhance the speed and cut down the time between Detroit and Chicago. Two-hundred-miles an hour is not impossible for Michigan, but that requires a lot of infrastructure change,” he said.
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Arrival of Uber means fewer cabs, cab drivers

By AMELIA HAVANEC

Capital News Service

LANSING – Uber may be a household name, but the entrepreneurial ridesharing company reached Michigan only two years ago, tacking Detroit and Ann Arbor onto its momentum for global popularity.

Since then, the service has expanded to Grand Rapids, Lansing, Flint and Kalamazoo.
Meanwhile, many taxi companies, including ones in Michigan, have struggled to keep up with the technology and new business model Uber offers.

And they face setbacks.
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Grant will improve parking safety for truckers

By ZHAO PENG
Capital News Service

LANSING— Michigan expects a $3 million federal grant to expand its Truck Parking Information and Management System to provide parking information for truck drivers to increase their safety, according to the Department of Transportation (MDOT).

“We were really happy that the federal government saw this as a worthwhile project,” said Kirk Steudle, the MDOT director. “Truck parking is a very real problem.”

Chuck Simmons, safety management specialist at the Michigan Center for Truck Safety, said truck drivers have a problem finding safe and available parking, which increases the danger for them.
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Are robot cars good for the environment?

By BROOKE KANSIER

Capital News Service

LANSING — Cars that drive themselves may be safer, smarter and more efficient than those driven by people.

But will they be better for the environment?

It’s a question with no definitive answer, said John DeCicco, a research professor at the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute and a board member of the university’s MCity – an entire city for the testing of the vehicles, complete with cutouts of pedestrians and stoplights.
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Mass transportation could move state beyond “Band-aid” fixes

By JOSH THALL
Capital News Service

LANSING — The May 5 ballot proposal to raise sales taxes for road improvements might be just a start toward fixing the state’s transportation needs.

For many years, officials haven’t been fixing roads but patching them, said Denise Donohue, the director of the County Road Association of Michigan.

“Currently we are simply patching potholes, which just puts a Band-aid over the problem,” Donohue said. “If there is a pothole, that means there is a crack in the road bed that is allowing water to get through and freeze and so forth. So really, a bigger repair is what’s needed.”
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Roads proposal could aid officers, advocates say

By CHEYNA ROTH
Capital News Service

LANSING — The controversial May ballot proposal that would raise the sales tax and fix Michigan roads could have an unexpected side effect: safer working conditions for police officers.

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among police officers, said Terry Jungel, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association. Through March 26, 12 officers across the country died in traffic accidents this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

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How a pothole forms, courtesy of the Michigan Department of Transportation


Michigan recently experienced this first hand when Ingham County Sheriff’s Deputy Grant Whitaker was killed in an automobile accident while chasing a suspect last December.
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Michigan teen driving program puts the parent back in the car

By BROOKE KANSIER
Capital News Service

LANSING — Parents who have qualms about their teen getting behind the wheel can rest a bit easier through a Michigan Sheriffs’ Association-backed program.

The program, “Sheriffs Telling Our Parents and Promoting Educated Drivers” — or STOPPED — informs parents any time a vehicle registered in the program is pulled over or involved in an accident, even if no ticket is issued.

“[Teens] are at the dangerous intersection of inexperience and risk taking,” said Terry Jungel, executive director of the Sheriffs’ Association. “It’s not only dangerous for the teen driver, it’s dangerous for the people the teen driver may hit. It is in all of society’s best interest to make sure these teen drivers are driving safely, because they’re not hitting other teen drivers, they’re hitting us.”
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