Application for Local Rail Grade Crossing Surface Funds Now Available

The Office of Rail is pleased to introduce a new local grade crossing surface program. In compliance with directives and criteria established as part of the recent transportation funding package, the new program offers 60% funding for crossing surface improvements, with railroads responsible for the remaining 40% of project costs.

A program announcement with additional details was mailed to all road authorities and railroads as of early December 2016. Road agencies are eligible to apply through January 27, 2017. Project selections are expected to be confirmed by early February, with authorizations scheduled to be issued by early April for the 2017 construction season.

Please click here for the application.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State and Federal Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

Energy Deal Reached on the Last Day of Lame Duck

Legislation making major changes to how the state regulates energy, including the construction of new power plants, how customer choice is managed and increasing the percentage of electricity that must be generated from renewable sources finally passed the House and the Senate.

Passage came after a tentative framework of a deal came together between the state’s major utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, and those advocating greater customer choice, two groups long at odds on energy legislation.

The approved versions of SB 437 and SB 438 would put in place strict parameters as to how the Public Service Commission would calculate the charge alternative electric suppliers would pay Consumers or DTE if they did not reach a contract with an entity to supply them with power to sell to their customers.

The deal drops Senate language that would have meant a minimum 4-year charge and maximum 10-year charge on customers of alternative electric suppliers. The bills could also reduce the size of the choice market if those customers return in large numbers to utilities.

The legislation sets up a revised certificate of necessity process for utilities to win state approval of building new power plants or purchasing existing ones. And another major provision requires utilities to submit integrated resource plans to the state showing five-, 10- and 15-year projections of their load obligations and plans to meet those obligations.

The legislation would increase the percentage of electricity utilities must generate from renewable sources from 10 to 15 percent by 2021.

Finally, those who currently generate their own power through the net metering program would avoid having to pay a charge to support the grid for the first 10 years, but there would be a study on the subject with the PSC later implementing a tariff no sooner than 18 months from the bill’s effective date on new net metering users.

The Governor is expected to sign the bills.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State and Federal Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

Compromise Bill Eliminating Local Cost Sharing with MDOT Sent to the Governor

On July 1, the Governor vetoed SB 557. That bill would have eliminated the local cost sharing provision for cities over 25,000 on MDOT projects. As a result of the veto, Senator Knollenberg, introduced SB 1068 as a starting point to begin working on a compromise.

After months of working with the Senator, MDOT and the Administration, a compromise was reached during lame duck that will eliminate local cost sharing on all limited access freeways. This compromise language will significantly reduce the liability for our largest municipalities and in some cases save them million of dollars.

Although we were disappointed with the Governor’s original veto, we appreciate the willingness of all parties involved to work toward this compromise and are very please with the results. We look forward to the Governor signing this legislation and the positive impact it will have on our communities and their local road networks.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State and Federal Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

Federal Government Avoids Shutdown, Sends Money to Flint

The Senate recently passed legislation to fund the federal government until April 28, avoiding a government shutdown by less than an hour. The measure passed 63-36 after a group of disgruntled Democrats backed away from their threats to block or delay the funding measure because of a dispute over healthcare benefits for retired miners.

Senators will have to reach an agreement by late April on spending levels for the rest of fiscal year 2017 while juggling the confirmations of various executive branch nominees and perhaps a Supreme Court nominee. They will also be working on regulatory reform and a budget to pave the way for tax reform.

The Water Resources Development Act passed by a vote of 95 to 3, and it includes access to $100 million to repair Flint’s drinking water infrastructure; $50 million to address health care needs of children with lead exposure; the authority for the state of Michigan to forgive $20 million in past drinking water loans to Flint; and a requirement the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warn the public within 15 days of high lead levels in drinking water if a state fails to do so.
John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State and Federal Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

 

Bill on Lead Action Level Notifications Sent to the Governor

HB 5120 would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to require the owner or operator of a public water supply to issue a public advisory within three business days after being notified that the lead action level had been exceeded, in situations in which administrative rules require public education regarding lead.
A water supplier would have to provide the public advisory in a form and manner designed
to fit the specific situation and be reasonably calculated to reach all people served by the public water supply. To reach all of those people, a supplier would have to use at least one of the following forms of communicating the advisory:
  • Appropriate broadcast media, such as radio and television.
  • Posting of the advisory in conspicuous locations throughout the area served by the public water supply.
  • Hand delivering the advisory to people served by the public water supply.
  • Another communication method approved in writing by the DEQ.

We anticipate the Governor will sign this legislation

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State and Federal Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

Speed Limit Bills Sent to the Governor

This week the Legislature sent a package of bills to the Governor that would address the way speed limits are set in Michigan. HB 4423 would require the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Michigan State Police (MSP) to increase the speed limits on at least 600 miles of limited access freeway to 75 mph and 900 miles of trunk line highway to 65 mph within a year after the bill’s effective date if certain conditions were met.

HB 4425 would require a local road authority to determine any modified speed limits on a local highway.  A speed limit will now need to be established through a engineering and safety study and by the 85th percentile speed of free flowing traffic under ideal conditions rounded to the nearest multiple of five miles per hour. Local road authorities would be prohibited from establishing and posting a speed limit at less than the 50th percentile speed of free flowing traffic under optimal conditions on the fastest portion of the highway segment where the speed limit was being posted.

The League supported HB 4425 as it met our objective of allowing context to be considered when establishing a speed limit rather than only being able to establish a speed limit at the 85th percentile. This concludes a two and half year discussion on this issue and we expect the governor to sign the bills.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State and Federal Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

Legislation Prevents Local Ordinances Regulating Drone Use

SB 992 was passed out of House Committee this week and action is expected on the House floor early next week. This legislation provides a regulatory framework for individuals to legally operate drones in Michigan. It also sets forth provisions that an individual operator must follow or be subject to criminal penalties. Finally the bill sets up a task-force to put forward additional policy recommendations on the use of drones in Michigan.

Unfortunately though this bill removes the ability for local units of government to adopt their own ordinances regulating drone usage within their community. We have had conversations with the sponsor and as a result were able to secure direct representation on the task-force to address usage at the local level, but could not come to an agreement on striking the preemption language.

Should you have concerns about local preemption of drones please reach out to your Representative to share those concerns.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State and Federal Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

Bill Requiring Communities To Use Qualifications-Based Selection Put On Hold Until Next Year

House Local Government Committee took testimony on HB 5238 but no vote was taken and the bill will need to be reintroduced next year. This bill would have required all cities and villages to use a Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) procurement process when acquiring architectural and engineering services.

UBS is a competitive procurement process in which engineering firms submit qualifications to the community. The Community would then assess the expertise of the competing firms and select the most qualified firm. Once selected the community would negotiate the project scope and associated fee. If the community and the most qualified firm cannot reach an agreement on project scope, schedule and budget, the community then negotiates with the next most qualified firm.

While there are many communities in Michigan that utilize a QBS process, The League feels that mandating this process on communities is not appropriate. While saving are possible the use of this process cannot guarantee those savings will actually occur. We oppose this legislation and are pleased it will not see action during lame-duck this year.

The League firmly believes that communities should have local control when procuring architectural and engineering services and should not be mandated to follow any one specific process.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State and Federal Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

21st Century Infrastructure Commission Report Released

Today the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission released a 188-page report on improving Michigan’s infrastructure and strengthening our economy. The reports Vision Statement is as follows: Michigan will lead the nation in creating a 21st Century infrastructure system that will include innovative technology, sustainable funding solutions, sound economic principals and integrated asset management and investment approach that will enhance Michiganders’ quality of life and build strong communities for the future.

The report highlights that a 21st Century Michigan is one where the state’s infrastructure system supports economic prosperity, promotes a healthy environment, provides reliable and high quality services and ensure we get the most value from limited financial resources. To maintain Michigan’s status as a global leader the report suggest that we must look at infrastructure in an integrated and holistic way. This means further promoting asset management, coordinated planning, sustainable funding and emerging technologies.

Recommendations within the report are focused in four key areas: Water, Transportation, Energy and Communications. In each of these categories there are many issue that impact our communities. A few key recommendations within this reports are continued investment in green infrastructure, rightsizing our roadways with a focus on placemaking, offering more robust nonmotorized transportation options and investment in transit across Michigan.

The bottom line is that this will cost money. The report indicates that Michigan will need an additional $4 billion per year, and $60 billion over the next 20 years, to meets the needs of our transportation, water, energy and communication infrastructure. A mix of sources will be relied on for these funding increases including federal, state and local funding, user fees and private investment. An important takeaway is that the report suggests giving more authority to locals to raise the funds necessary to maintain their infrastructure. Some of the suggestions offered are a local gas tax, local registration fee, local sales tax or impact fees from land developments that burden road systems.

The 21st Century Infrastructure Reports was designed to identify the scope of the problem and offer a menu of options to solve that problem. There is no question that the need for further investment exists, and the desire of the Governor and the Commissioners that put this report together is to begin working on those solutions immediately.

For the Executive Summary click here, for the full report click here.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State and Federal Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

Local Rail Grade Crossing Surface Funds

A new funding source, sought by Michigan railroads, is available beginning winter 2017 to local road agencies for improving rail grade crossing surfaces on roads under the jurisdiction of the county road agency/department, cities or villages. Projects utilizing
the Local Grade Crossing Surface Account will be 60 percent covered by the account, with the remaining 40 percent being funded by the railroad company.

The legislative intent of this Act 51 carve-out is to provide financial assistance for railroads to improve crossings on active rail lines.In 2017, $3 million will be made available for local rail grade crossing projects.

Eligibility: Eligible projects are limited to crossing repair work that is normally the responsibility of the railroad in accordance with PA 354 of 1993.

How to Prepare:  Get an estimate for improving the crossing from the railroad company responsible for it. Be sure they agree to pay 40 percent of the overall project. Make sure ADTs (average daily traffic) are accurate and up to date.

How to Submit: MDOT’s new application will be available in December 2016. The form will look similar to the application used on the warning device safety improvement program. It will be a simple one-page form, and will be released with submission instructions.

Timeframe: Once the estimated one-month submission window closes, local road agencies can expect to hear about applications within a month. MDOT expects to
authorize projects 4-8 weeks after project selections are made.

Projects are Prioritized Based on:

  1. Validated vehicular traffic volume (ADT);
  2. Relative surface condition (RSC);
  3. Ability of local agency and railroad to coordinate repairs with adjacent road work: and
  4. The availability of funding

Projects will be ranked by ADT and RSC. After the top candidate in both categories within each MDOT Region has been selected, the next-in-line projects statewide will be funded until applications or annual budget is exhausted.

Please click on the following link for the Michigan Railroads Association Surface Grade Crossing Railroad Contact list. click-here

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State and Federal Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.