Editorial

Look and listen before spending on projects that don’t serve public needs

March 28, 2014
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Transportation issues are certainly a focus point in regional (and state) planning this year, bringing to the forefront initiatives and plans discussed for almost a decade — and bringing back discussion of old errors.

Regional hearings hosted by the Michigan Department of Transportation rekindled those debates and were given the benefit of prior experience and sea-changing demographic information that should serve as guideposts. Only in the Grand Rapids region can one find public comment that begs “new think” rather than compliant, herd acceptance of Lansing “group think.”

Gov. Rick Snyder should take note and find encouragement for his long and ignored push for comprehensive transportation infrastructure planning.

Earlier this month, MDOT hearings in West Michigan gave public record to those thinking outside the box, including major changes for the ills caused by the 1960’s construction of U.S. 131 right through the center of the city. Such planning, or lack thereof, is of great consequence, given the city's robust growth the past 20 years.

The lament has been even greater than that reserved for the sorrowful destruction of the old City Hall and other iconic community structures.

Those concerns and new facts were represented by Josh Leffingwell, communications director at West Michigan Environmental Action Council, whose points on behalf of many documenting the new urbanism trends here offer a complete reset. It also begs the state to look and listen before spending millions on projects that no longer serve the public need.

MDOT has little more to say, other than to point to approved funding limitations that paint such comprehensive planning as a Quixotic tilt at the cement of legislative cowardliness to fully fund road repairs and initiatives, rather than the current path of usurping available funds that certainly will be needed again and again.

The “fix” is akin to the emperor’s new clothes and will certainly cost far more than the governor’s estimate for comprehensive planning in the necessary redundancies deemed preferable to responsible use of tax dollars. It is wasteful and shameful.

Gov. Snyder in this region is certainly regarded for his leadership skills, demonstrated on the day before his first State of the State address in which he announced a second international bridge would be built to Canada, largely using federal and Canadian funds (see the update on page 3.) He persevered not only on behalf of thousands of Michigan and national businesses left hanging on the privately owned Ambassador Bridge, but on behalf of Michigan residents who will benefit from the progress of Michigan businesses and international trade.

Snyder must again stop the budget bleeding and secure a more fiscally responsible path on behalf of state residents deserving comprehensive transportation renewal.

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