Whitmer at closed bridge: ‘Need to get serious’ about road plan

Ottawa County

FERRYSBURG, Mich. (WOOD) — A crumbling bridge connecting Spring Lake to Ferrysburg that closed for safety reasons served as the backdrop Wednesday for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest pitch for her plan to fix Michigan’s roads and bridges.

Smith's bridge closed in Ferrysburg
Cones and a barricade block the deteriorating Smith’s Bridge in Ferrysburg. (June 21, 2019)

It has been almost 4.5 months since Whitmer introduced her budget plan and 45 cent per gallon gas tax increase proposal. The Legislature has taken no action on the request despite pressure from the governor.

“We need to get serious and we need to have across-the-aisle conversations so we can get something done,” she said.

Whitmer used the shuttered Smith’s Bridge in Ferrysburg to highlight the urgency. Whitmer says the problem is more than traffic headaches for commuters who must take Van Wagoner Road instead.

Map of Smith's Bridge in Ferrysburg

“We actually have seen in our time here, emergency vehicles going through a detour. This is a public safety issue,” she said.

Republican State Sen. Roger Victory was also there Wednesday, surveying the condition of the bridge in his district. Victory serves on committees that deal with transportation funding and policy.

“We’ve been in discussions. We’ve been looking at sustainable plans, something that’s just not going to be here for the next couple years, but going in to the next decade,” he said. “You know, sometimes you’re looking at the gas tax — is that a sustainable funding mechanism when we’re moving toward more electrical vehicles?”

Both the Republican-controlled House and Senate seem reluctant to embrace a gas tax increase, but there are still talking about more money for roads.

State Rep. Jim Lilly of Park Township says the House is working on a different plan.

“The governor has signaled that she would like to see a lot of new revenue, and I think, at least where we are in the House, we do want to make sure that existing dollars are prioritized first,” he said.

The House and Senate must reach a consensus before negotiations with the Whitmer administration can begin in earnest. The deadline for the new budget is Oct. 1.

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