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Shirkey bill saving taxpayer dollars and enabling better road designs headed to governor

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a bill sponsored by state Sen. Mike Shirkey that will authorize the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to consider new pavement designs and technologies for better future road projects.

Senate Bill 879 is the culmination of collaborative efforts between Shirkey and the department, with input from the department’s Roads Innovation Task Force Report, published in June.

“Everyone agrees that Michigan’s roads can be better,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake, who is an engineer. “We should leverage the incredible technological advancements we are seeing in the transportation industry to build better, safer and longer-lasting roads. Not only will they lead to improved driving experiences, they will also help save taxpayer dollars.”

The bill will make it possible for MDOT to give more thoughtful consideration of new pavement designs through a number of common-sense reforms.

Currently, new road projects are subject to a Life-Cycle Cost Analysis, which requires historical data specific to Michigan — in addition to construction and maintenance costs and service life — to be a factor when selecting a pavement design for a project.

The historical data aspect is seen as a limitation to innovation, as new designs are less likely to have historical data. Shirkey’s legislation will allow MDOT to substitute historical data during this process from a geographic location outside Michigan that has similar climates, soil structures or vehicle traffic.

The bill ensures that the lack of actual historic project maintenance and repair data do not prevent MDOT from conducting a pavement demonstration project. This removes limitations on building better roads.

Finally, SB 879 allows the department to conduct an unlimited number of demonstration projects each year (the current limit of such projects is four) to test improved ideas and designs, and it will increase the permissible deviation in annual cost differences from 20 to 25 percent between the respective paving materials in any consecutive three-year period.

“With revised cost and historical data analysis, and with the advantage of having a larger pool of demonstration projects, we are creating the opportunity for increased road service life, lower maintenance costs, and better, safer driving experiences,” Shirkey said. “This is a win-win for Michigan drivers and for MDOT.”

Both the Senate and House of Representatives have approved SB 879. It now heads to the governor to be signed into law.