Are Michigan roads ready for self-driving cars?

By Gloria Nzeka
Capital News Service
LANSING – If you drive or travel on Michigan roads, you know that they’re not in the best of shape. As discussions about automated vehicles increasingly appear in the news, cars and tech enthusiasts may be wondering: If we can’t build roads without potholes, how do we build them for automated cars? Or: Are Michigan roads ready to accommodate self-driving cars? “On one level, yes, the roads are ready because those vehicles will have to work on the roads that we have,” said Richard Wallace, director of the Transportation Systems Analysis group within the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. “The driver has to be capable,” Wallace said, referring to the computer system that will pilot automated cars through artificial intelligence, or AI.

Election season might delay any road-funding fixes

Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan’s crumbling roads — long the subject of jests, memes and most of all, pain — are now voters’ highest priority. And the future of the issue might depend on which candidates they choose in 2018. According to a Marketing Resource Group poll released March 27, 49 percent of voters said Michigan’s roads were one of up to two issues they’re most concerned about. Education beat out jobs and the economy for second place. The poll states this is the first time in more than a decade that the economy was not voters’ No.

Counties get new money to fix roads after tough winter

Capital News Service
LANSING — County road commissions, faced with unexpectedly severe road deterioration, have welcomed additional road funding approved recently by the state. The Legislature allocated $175 million to the Department of Transportation (MDOT) to spend on summer road maintenance. “With the spring flood event, we definitely got into the carry-over from last year and we’ll be able to make the repairs we need to without worrying about canceling any projects for this year,” said Chris Minger, the managing director for the St. Joseph County Road Commission. “If this would have happened a few years back we would have had to cancel quite a few projects,” Minger said.

Bridge repair battles to keep up with bridge decline

Capital News Service
LANSING — About one in 10 bridges in Michigan is in poor condition, according to the 2018 Michigan Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers. But state transportation experts say there are not enough funds to keep up with needed repairs. The overall grade for bridges in Michigan is C-minus, and about 1,234 out of the state’s 11,156 bridges are structurally deficient, according to the report. The Department of Transportation (MDOT) upgraded 22 poor bridges last year and local road agencies upgraded 56, said Jeff Cranson, the department’s director of the office of communications. The state spends between $100 million and $150 million a year on average to repair bridges, Cranson said.

A warmer, wetter Michigan might be making potholes worse

Capital News Service
LANSING – This spring’s “breakup” of Michigan roads has been the worst Kirk Steudle has seen in his 31 years with the Michigan Department of Transportation. “The winter we just had was one of the most brutal that we’ve had” for weather that causes crumbling pavement and potholes, said Steudle, the department’s director. He has seen colder winters, ones with more snow. But when the weather stays cold, it isn’t as bad on the roads as this one was. “There was a week when it wasn’t above 10 degrees, then the next week it was 60,” Steudle said.

Some highway maintenance done by private firms

Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan’s roads are rated D- this year by the newest American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure Report Card. That’s drawing attention to the fact that state and local transportation agencies are contracting with private firms for road maintenance rather than relying solely on public workers. The report card rates 39 percent of Michigan’s 120,000 miles of paved roadways in poor condition, 43 percent in fair condition and only 18 percent in good condition. Road maintenance always has a funding shortage, and contracting out road maintenance to private companies could provide “a more cost-effective value for taxpayers,” said Mark Christensen, the superintendent and manager of the Montcalm County Road Commission. Road maintenance has to be a public-private partnership, Christensen said.

Bad road conditions are damaging residents’ vehicles in East Lansing

During what was expected to be a typical day driving for Uber, East Lansing resident Antoine Cato encountered a pothole. Cato could feel something wrong with his car and began to slow down. Once he made it to an auto shop, he grew angry and frustrated upon learning the hefty cost of replacing his tires. “I ended spending over $200 on two front tires … I was angry because these roads have been in need of repair,” said Cato.

Harsh potholes continue to give residents of Ingham County problems

Austin Faulds was driving through Ingham County recently, where he saw the front tires of two different cars completely fly off. The reason for these motorists misfortune? The result of hitting a pothole. Faulds is a manager and delivery driver at Pita Pit in East Lansing, and is among several Ingham County residents who are tired of dealing with the poor road conditions. Jabreel Naser, an employee of a gas station in Ingham County, has encountered several instances where people have voiced their irritation with the roads.

Drink up? Depends on where you live

Capital News Service
LANSING – If you’re thinking of moving in Michigan and worry about water quality, finding the perfect area might be harder than you think. Because of  a wide variety of contaminants, pinpointing one area that has the cleanest drinking water or the worst drinking water isn’t an easy task.  
“It’s hard to say where the most issues are. There are different issues in different communities around the state,” said Sean McBrearty, a program organizer at Clean Water Action, an advocacy group.. Lead receives the most headlines but Michigan’s main drinking water contaminants include arsenic, nitrate, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and lead.

Flooding affects West Grand River Avenue, other parts of Ingham County

OKEMOS – on February 22, many roads in Ingham County were blocked by flooding. Because of snow and the heavy rain, there was a lot of water on the Grand River Avenue, and parts of that road and other roads were blocked off. The police erected a stop sign before the water, but many people still drove through the flood road. Some vehicles were trapped in the flood, and drivers was unable to continue the vehicle. Harvey Leroy is an police officer of Meridian Township.