December 3, 2019
The Honorable Gretchen Whitmer
Governor of Michigan
P.O. Box 15282
Lansing MI 48901
Honorable Members of the Michigan Legislature
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909
Dear Gov. Whitmer and Honorable Members of the Michigan Legislature,
Last month, Wayne County closed the Grosse Ile Parkway Bridge after an inspection showed the bridge required emergency repairs. We understood this closure would inconvenience thousands of commuters going to and from the island, but there was no alternative. The safety of our residents required we close the bridge and make the repairs.
Unfortunately, this situation has become an all too common occurrence. Grosse Ile is yet another canary in the coal mine alerting us to the unacceptable condition of our roads and bridges.
My administration inherited the largest and oldest network of county roads and bridges in Michigan. The system was largely neglected for decades and, because counties and local governments in Michigan are systemically underfunded, our Department of Public Services lacks the resources to fully address this problem.
The best we can do is react in a perpetual crisis mode. Before Grosse Ile, it was Lilley Bridge in Canton. Before Lilley, it was Waltz Bridge in Huron Township. Before Waltz, it was the Jefferson Bridge that connects Detroit and River Rouge. Miller Bridge in Dearborn, which everyone knows is in need of a complete replacement at an estimated cost of at least $50M, still needs a solution. And so it goes. While Wayne County may face the worst of it, our situation is not unique.
The failure to fully address Michigan's infrastructure crisis is felt by every commuter with every pothole across the state. When bridges like Grosse Ile Parkway are forced to close for emergency repairs, it costs local businesses money and robs our residents of their time. Worst of all, we risk the potential injury or loss of life in the unthinkable event of a bridge failure.
I do not blame this administration or this legislature for our infrastructure crisis. This is a problem we have all inherited. However, we have an obligation as leaders to work together in good faith toward a real solution. I'm confident many of my colleagues in local and county governments across the state feel the same way.
Fixing our roads and bridges properly requires both money and time. The nonpartisan engineers who've studied the issue say it will require an additional $2-billion annually over the next decade to restore Michigan's infrastructure. Half-measures have failed in the past. There's no reason to think we can make them work now. Michigan requires a comprehensive solution to the problem identified by experts.
In an effort to be proactive, Wayne County commissioned a study of our roads and bridges and then mapped out a ten-year strategic asset management plan to restore our entire system to the level our residents expect. Unfortunately, without the necessary resources to invest in this restoration-resources that ultimately must come from Lansing-we cannot fully implement this plan.
I know that no politician wants to ask their constituents for more taxes. Nonetheless, I am confident Michigan residents want to invest in our roads if we present them with a real plan for a long-term fix. The Wayne County residents I speak with daily understand the tooth fairy won't magically fix our roads. We must do it ourselves.
There is certainly room to negotiate and compromise on the details of a comprehensive infrastructure plan. Make no mistake; there is no room to quibble over the scope of this problem. Grosse Ile once again proved that point.
It's long past time to agree upon a solution. I hope we can work together toward such a solution.
Warren C. Evans
Wayne County Executive