Michigan lags in charging stations for electric vehicles

Capital News Service
LANSING—Michigan has only 2 percent of the nation’s public charging stations for electric vehicles. Lansing has the most stations–27–and Detroit has two stations less. There are 11,254 alternative fueling stations, which can charge electric vehicles, and 31,265 charging outlets in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, while Michigan only has 271 stations and 681 charging outlets. Robert Feldmaier, director of the Center for Advanced Automotive Technology at Macomb Community College, said there is a reason why Michigan doesn’t have many charging stations: “California has a lot, but Michigan doesn’t, because there aren’t that many electric vehicles here, so there isn’t that much demand.”

Feldmaier said there are few charging stations near Macomb County, so most people charge their electric vehicles at home. Some public places having charging stations provided by private companies, not the government.

State will test more high-speed rails

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.

State eyes more drones in the skies

Capital News Service
LANSING – Drones on retail shelves for the upcoming holiday season or bomb unsuspecting civilians in war zones get lots of media attention, but Michigan’s Aeryon SkyRanger flies below the public attention radar. It’s a remotely operated aircraft system, belonging to the State Police, that the Federal Aviation Administration approved for use anywhere in Michigan. But does Michigan need it? Would a future sky full of drones help Michigan residents feel safe? Deploying the Aeryon SkyRanger comes with many advantages, according to the State Police.

Changing preferences challenge transportation agencies

Capital News Service
LANSING — Increased fuel efficiency, an insufficient gas tax and younger generations’ disinterest in owning cars have created a complicated combination of financial concerns for Michigan transportation agencies. Experts predict it’s not likely to change soon. Department of Transportation (MDOT) Director Kirk Steudle said younger generations increasingly depend on other forms of transportation as they put off a major car purchase. That trend “showed up in a survey in the mid-2000s, where it said the public wanted more access to move around and they wanted different choices on how to move around. In fact, we had never gotten that response before, and we’d been doing the long-range plan for decades,” Steudle said.

Grant will improve parking safety for truckers

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. “It could be challenging to find a parking spot. If they can’t find a safe spot, they will find whatever is available,” Simmons said.

Train Routes

Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan’s transportation organizations are studying planes, trains and automobiles. More options for public transit could play a huge role in the state’s competitiveness in attracting and retaining people, young and old, transportation experts say. They’ve recently launched four studies to assess the feasibility of new Michigan rail routes. The studies will assess traffic flows, taking into consideration automobile, bus and air traffic, said Elizabeth Treutel, a Michigan Environmental Council policy associate. “A big goal of the studies is understanding what are the traffic flows now?” she said.

Bills could raise speed limits on state roads

Capitol News Service
LANSING — A new package of bills would result in higher speed limits on state roads across Michigan and fewer “speed traps” set by local police departments, if passed and signed into law. The bills are designed to set optimum speeds on state roadways by relying on driver behavior, road conditions and accident data, according to officials with the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Transportation. The package would also restrict local governments from arbitrarily lowering speed limits on sections of roadway, supporters said. A similar proposal was introduced two years ago by Republican Sen. Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, a former county sheriff who supports the bills. “The Michigan State Police gave a presentation on how, for 40 years, speed limits have been set scientifically and it has been shown to be the safest speed,” Jones said.

Mass transportation could move state beyond “Band-aid” fixes

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.”

A legislative report from 2011 says such quick fixes only last up to three years for roads in fair condition, and not even a full year for roads in poor condition.

Bill would help counties replace failing snow plows

Capital News Service
LANSING — Keweenaw County’s 30 road commission vehicles — which include snow plows and salt trucks — average 27 years old and 130,000 miles. The county’s oldest snow plows are from the 1970s and have over a quarter million miles on them, said Gregg Patrick, Keweenaw County Road Commission engineer. “Most county commissions are running their equipment twice the life they used to, and these can start to fail in the winter season,” Patrick said. Counties have trouble keeping roads safe and convenient for the public when their old equipment is failing and needs maintenance more often, said Ed Noyola, deputy director of the County Road Association of Michigan. “Its reliability factor goes down as the vehicle ages beyond its intended life,” Noyola said, “What used to take us a day is now taking us two and a half days or longer in certain communities.”
Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, is reintroducing a bill to give counties like Keweenaw an opportunity to get affordable snow plows by giving local entities the first bid on equipment that the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is auctioning off.

Michigan crosswalk safety rules unclear

Capital News Service
LANSING — When a car and a pedestrian meet at a crosswalk, what’s supposed to happen? It’s a safety question that’s left some Michigan communities requesting more signs to remind drivers to yield for pedestrians. But some officials aren’t sure more yield signs will help, or what will. Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, said he’s seen an unusually high amount of requests for the signs in the last year — but he’s not so sure they’re a great idea. The signs could give pedestrians and others crossing the street a false sense of security that could lead to injury, he said.