Whitmer touts roads plan from crumbling Muskegon bridge

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Friday morning at the Ottawa Street bridge in Muskegon, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer got an up-close look at the very problem she’s promised to fix.

The 90-year-old bridge is in such disrepair, it’s been reduced to one lane for the past three years.

The concern atop is obvious, marked by orange barrels and a 5-foot tree growing through the heart of the bridge. But the safety problems are best seen underneath.

“The beams that we’re actually standing on right now, there’s literally holes rusted right through them,” explained Michigan Department of Transportation Chief Bridge Engineer Matt Chynoweth. 

MDOT says the city has tried to secure funding for a fix, but there hasn’t been enough money to go around. The Ottawa Street bridge is one of about 1,100 bridges in Michigan in poor or critical condition. Of those, 60 or 70 bridges are so bad they’re closed.

“This is an example of what happens when infrastructure isn’t maintained, isn’t prioritized,” Whitmer said.

The governor’s visit to Muskegon is part of her continued push of her budget plan and what’s inside: a 45-cents-a-gallon gas tax increase.

The proposal has drawn criticism from Republicans, who say it would break the bank for taxpayers.

Whitmer says a large investment is needed to fix the roads and will save money long-term. 

“We’re paying by driving on roads that are downright dangerous. We’re paying to replace the rims or tires or windshields in our car. We’re paying through our collisions — and we’re paying ‘cause we’re missing opportunity to draw investment into the state of Michigan,” Whitmer explained.

The visit came a day after the GOP-led state House approved an alternative to Whitmer’s plan, which would instead take the sales taxes collected at the pump and shift that money to road repairs.

Republicans say funding for schools wouldn’t take a hit, but Democrats — including Whitmer — are skeptical.

“It says that education is not a priority… neither is fixing the roads. We’re gonna do everything poorly and we’re all gonna pay if that’s the philosophy,” Whitmer said. 

Whitmer has said she wants to have a road funding plan finalized by the end of June. 

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