Englers Legacy Road Work

January 3, 2003
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LANSING — Color the legacy of three-term governor John Engler orange and white, the same colors as those construction barrels that have lined Michigan roadways for much of his dozen years as the state’s top executive.

“More than halfway around the world — that’s how far you could get on the 14,500 miles of state roads that have been improved from 1991 to 2002. Over the same period, nearly 1,900 bridges were repaired,” Engler wrote recently in “Build Michigan: Fixing Roads, Investing in the Future.”

“In fact, our BuildMichigan initiative has been the most comprehensive and ambitious effort in 50 years to repair and rebuild our roads and bridges,” he added.

When Engler took office in 1991 the state was spending $328 million on road and bridge work. For the last two years, that budget has topped $1.5 billion. Engler said that the road money spent in metro Detroit last year was more than was spent throughout the state when he took office.

Engler pointed out that more than 4,000 miles of roads have been improved in just the last two years, which has put Michigan well on its way to the Build Michigan goal of having 90 percent of the state’s freeway miles in good shape.

Also during the Engler era, 1,900 bridges were improved or preserved.

Build Michigan I was introduced about halfway through the governor’s tenure. The plan promised to increase transportation spending by $1 billion over five years.

Then Build Michigan II was launched in 1997, and it projected spending on roads and bridges would reach more than $1.5 billion in 2001.

“Now, BuildMichiganIII is plowing an additional $1 billion into road repair over four years to enhance safety, relieve congestion and promote economic growth. This incredible record is a direct result of our success working with Michigan’s congressional delegation to increase federal transportation funding by an annual average of $312 million,” said Engler.

Local road agencies saw their share of funding rise, too. In 1992, those agencies received less than $30 million from the state. But by 1997, that figure topped $150 million.

Also, federal funds for state airports doubled and reached more than $100 million.

On Engler’s watch, the U.S. 131 S-Curve was reconstructed and the first segment of the 20-mile South Beltline was completed. Also known as M-6 and the Paul B. Henry Freeway, the expressway is expected to open by 2005.

“As the auto capital of the world, Michigan understands the vital importance of our transportation infrastructure,” said Engler, who left office last Tuesday but probably not in his once-famous Oldsmobile.

“With unprecedented investments in road and bridge repair and other vital facilities, Michigan motorists and our economy are benefiting from a safer, smoother, more efficient transportation system.”           

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