30 episodes

The Talking Michigan Transportation podcast features conversations with transportation experts inside and outside MDOT and will touch on anything and everything related to mobility, including rail, transit and the development of connected and automated vehicles.

Talking Michigan Transportation Michigan Department of Transportation

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    • 5.0, 4 Ratings

The Talking Michigan Transportation podcast features conversations with transportation experts inside and outside MDOT and will touch on anything and everything related to mobility, including rail, transit and the development of connected and automated vehicles.

    A conversation with tolling proponent Baruch Feigenbaum, Reason Foundation

    A conversation with tolling proponent Baruch Feigenbaum, Reason Foundation

    Why does a foundation promoting libertarian ideas support tolling for transportation infrastructure funding? Feigenbaum expands on his commentary supporting Michigan’s tolling study and also talks about:


    - The value of being able to travel freely on a road whenever you choose, not just the use but options created by perpetual availability. Who is benefitting and should pay for it - just the person on the road or also the person or business at the destination?

    - The enthusiasm for tolling in Texas and other states 10 to 15 years ago has waned. Should we expect renewed interest?

    - Feigenbaum’s belief that tolling is less regressive than fuel or sales taxes and models that design for social equity.

    - How we arrived at this point. The challenge of raising revenue even for something as essential to our economy as roads in a climate where lawmakers take anti-tax pledges.

    - Feigenbaum’s observations about modern technology and how it has reduced the cost of tolling infrastructure. The cost of toll collection, once as high as 25 percent of revenue in the 20th century, is now less than 10 percent on tolled facilities. Most experts believe that as tolling and technology continue to improve, the overall cost of collection will decline to less than 5 percent, roughly equivalent to the gas tax.

    Other relevant links:

    A 2019 Epic-MRA poll of Michigan voter views on tolling.

    Some things the study will cover, including managed lanes and how they work.

    Why Michigan doesn’t have tolling. Some history.

    • 25 min
    Meet Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s chief mobility officer

    Meet Trevor Pawl, Michigan’s chief mobility officer

    Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the creation of the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification and named Trevor Pawl as the state’s chief mobility officer. Pawl has extensive experience in business development for the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) and has been a leader for PlanetM, a mobility initiative representing mobility efforts across the state.


    Pawl talks about his plans for the new office and the intention to take advantage of ongoing collaborative efforts between the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), MEDC, and other government agencies, as well as academia and private industry.

    Also discussed: the life-saving benefits of technologies automakers are developing on the road to further automation of vehicles. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) observes:

    Driver assistance technologies in today’s motor vehicles are already helping to save lives and prevent injuries. A number of today’s new motor vehicles have technology that helps drivers avoid drifting into adjacent lanes or making unsafe lane changes, warns drivers of other vehicles behind them when they are backing up, or brakes automatically if a vehicle ahead of them stops or slows suddenly, among other things. These and other safety technologies use a combination of hardware (sensors, cameras, and radar) and software to help vehicles identify certain safety risks so they can warn the driver to act to avoid a crash.

    Here are some other links and references from this week’s edition:

    PlanetM initiative: https://www.planetm.com/

    A December 2019 conversation on the podcast with John Peracchio, who chaired the Michigan Council on Future Mobility: https://soundcloud.com/talkingmitransportation/talking-michigan-transportation-the-michigan-council-on-future-mobility-driverless-cars-toll-roads-and-electric-vehicle-charging

    NHTSA focus on automated vehicles and safety: https://www.nhtsa.gov/technology-innovation/automated-vehicles-safety

    The Economist on investments in electric vehicles: https://www.economist.com/business/2019/04/17/big-carmakers-are-placing-vast-bets-on-electric-vehicles

    • 21 min
    Gordie Howe International Bridge: A court ruling and more community benefits

    Gordie Howe International Bridge: A court ruling and more community benefits

    On this week’s edition of Talking Michigan Transportation, Jeff talks with Andy Doctoroff, the governor’s point person on the Gordie Howe International Bridge, about a significant Michigan Court of Appeals ruling related to the project. Later, Mark Butler, director of communications for the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority (WDBA), talks about last week’s Community Organization Investment (COI) announcement.

    First, in a unanimous decision published June 18, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling in rejecting the Detroit International Bridge Co.’s challenges to the agreement that allows MDOT to work with the Canadian government to build the bridge.

    Gov. Whitmer praised the ruling.

    "We are very pleased that yet another court, this time the Michigan Court of Appeals, has affirmed the agreement between Canada and Michigan to build this vital bridge,” the governor said in a statement. “This emphatic ruling means progress will continue on a project that is spurring growth and creating good-paying jobs in Detroit, Windsor and across the region.”

    Community benefits

    Last week, the WDBA announced recipients for July 2020 COI funding. Butler explains why community benefits are an important part of the work to build the bridge and the WDBA’s ongoing commitment to the residents, businesses and community organizations on both sides of the border. He also affirms the commitment to opening the bridge in late 2024.

    This year’s COI recipients will receive funding in July 2020. The projects include:

    • Sandwich First Baptist Church: Sandwich Underground Railroad Freedom Museum
    • Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Windsor Essex Central Council: Helping Hands Friendship Centre
    • Friends of the Court: Spreading Our Roots
    • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windsor Essex: Big Neighbourhood – Sandwich
    • Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA): Binational Detroit River Cleanup
    • Les Amis Duff-Bâby: Grand Opening Event - Duff-Bâby Mansion
    • West Vernor & Springwells Business Improvement District (BID): The Bid Is Open for Business!
    • Bridging Communities, Inc.: Southwest Expanded Seniors Services
    • Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church (Food Pantry): Food Pantry Equipment and Replacement Expansion Program

    • 29 min
    Restoring roads and bridges after mid-Michigan flooding

    Restoring roads and bridges after mid-Michigan flooding

    On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation, a conversation about mid-Michigan flooding and MDOT efforts to restore roads and bridges.

    Guests include Jocelyn Hall, MDOT’s Bay Region media relations representative, and Matt Chynoweth, MDOT’s chief bridge engineer who oversees the MDOT Bureau of Bridges and Structures.

    After days of heavy rains that began May 17 and breached dams near Midland, several roads and bridges were heavily damaged from what is considered a 500-year event. The flooding and rapid currents were especially catastrophic in the Tittabawassee River. MDOT engineers moved quickly to put an emergency contract in place, which allows for restoring the US-10 bridges over Sanford Lake. Of the routes damaged in the region, that route is the busiest for commercial and commuter traffic. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer toured the site Wednesday with MDOT Director Paul Ajegba. MDOT’s Bay Region associate engineer for construction, Jason Garza, answered the governor’s questions and explained the emergency process to repair the bridges.



    While many of the most devastating images came from Midland, several other counties in the region sustained flooding damage, prompting the governor to add those to the State of Emergency declaration.


    Chynoweth talks about the specifics of inspecting, repairing and rebuilding the many bridges damaged by the rushing waters. He explains the concept of scour and how floods and rapid currents erode soil surrounding bridge foundations. The issue was especially acute during these historic flooding events.


    With climate change and sustained high water creating headaches for shoreline communities across the state and officials from several state agencies planning for more, Chynoweth discusses the challenges of planning and building more resilient transportation infrastructure, especially during an ongoing period of underinvestment.


    You can see more photos and find out other information about the routes affected by the flooding at this story map tour.


    • 18 min
    Federal stimulus for roads and Rebuilding Michigan

    Federal stimulus for roads and Rebuilding Michigan

    This week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast includes conversations about whether the federal government will provide any relief for transportation agencies in the wake of declining fuel tax revenues because of the pandemic. First, Lloyd Brown, director of communications at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, offers his analysis of the ongoing Congressional discussions.

    Later, MDOT Finance Director Patrick McCarthy talks about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Rebuilding Michigan program and plans to sell some of the bonds this year.

    Will there be help from Washington?

    Many scholars and analysts have argued that this is an opportune time to raise the federal gas tax, last increased in 1993, not indexed to inflation, which has increased 77 percent since then. Writing in The Hill, Bernard L. Weinstein, associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute and adjunct professor of business economics in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, makes the case for doing something now.


    The inflation-adjusted cost of gasoline today is about where it was 50 years ago. Weinstein questions whether Congress will squander a unique opportunity to hike the federal gasoline tax, replenish the Highway Trust Fund, and rebuild America’s critical road and bridge infrastructure.

    His thinking is in line with that of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has advocated for a 25-cent increase in the federal gas tax.

    “Our nation’s infrastructure is deteriorating and only getting worse. By 2025, our crumbling infrastructure will cost American businesses $7 trillion,” said Chamber CEO Tom Donohue. “Today’s announcement … is an important step forward on the path to rebuilding America’s infrastructure.”

    Says House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon: “And just like the New Deal of the 1930s, the best way to re-start our economy and put workers first is with a massive investment in the kind of infrastructure that will help future generations succeed - from better bridges and roads to robust transit and passenger rail service, to fully functioning ports and harbors, to modernized waste and drinking water systems, and widely available broadband internet.”

    U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, after initially balking at aid to states in another round of stimulus and suggesting they could default, amended his stance and suggested there could be some relief. But his and administration proposals come with what Democrats consider some poison pills, calling for a pandemic liability shield and payroll tax cuts.


    Rebuilding Michigan

    MDOT’s McCarthy explains the bond sale process and how it will support the Rebuilding Michigan plan. Earlier this year, Gov. Whitmer asked the State Transportation Commission (STC) to authorize bonds to rebuild some of the state’s busiest freeways. The STC voted to authorize up to $3.5 billion in bonds.


    The first project in the plan, the rebuild of I-496 west of Lansing, began April 1. McCarthy explains that the project is being funded with existing revenue that will be reimbursed when the bonds are sold.


    Meanwhile, other states are eyeing bond sales to shore up funding. The Texas Transportation Commission is preparing to issue $880 million of general obligation refunding bonds.


    • 27 min
    MDOT's Ron Jackson discusses maintenance during COVID-19 and work zone safety

    MDOT's Ron Jackson discusses maintenance during COVID-19 and work zone safety

    On this week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, Jeff talks with:

    — Ron Jackson, MDOT maintenance coordinator in the Taylor Transportation Service Center, about what it’s like maintaining some of the state’s busiest freeways during the COVID-19 outbreak. Ron and Jeff also talk about how his workers stay safe.

    — Also, this week is National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week. Courtney Bates, who coordinates safety messaging in the MDOT Office of Communications, talks about the challenges in this year’s campaign because of the pandemic and creative efforts to share the message.

    First, Ron talks about the importance of maintenance work and his compelling video to launch MDOT’s new Selfies From the Field series, an occasional feature highlighting transportation workers who clear debris from roads, mitigate washouts from flooding, patch potholes, and inspect repairs during this time of crisis. They support thousands of healthcare workers traveling to their double shifts at hospitals, truck drivers who haul our bread, milk, meat, and vegetables to the grocery store, and the people who stock the shelves and those who ring us out. Transportation workers do their jobs so all the other essential workers are able to do theirs. #MDOTSelfiesFromTheField


    Ron is also the MDOT’s Metro Region safety officer, and he talks about methods he employs to emphasize to maintenance crews the dangers inherent in working near traffic.

    Staying safe in work zones takes on special significance this week with the annual national campaign to make drivers aware of the men and women working on the roads and bridges we rely on everyday. An MDOT video pays tribute to critical infrastructure workers and the importance to stay alert in work zones.



    Courtney talks about her work with MDOT’s work zone safety team to prepare to host this year’s national event, which was canceled because of COVID-19. The event had been planned for the American Center for Mobility, dovetailing this year’s “We Can Do It” theme with the center’s former life as the Willow Run assembly plant and “Arsenal of Democracy,” converted from auto manufacturing during World War II to famously crank out more than one B-24 bomber per hour. The folk hero Rosie the Riveter is also part of the plant’s lore. View more photos of the era in this Detroit News gallery.



    Also discussed: creation of the poster that honors the men and women working on the roads in the spirit of Michigan’s labor legacy.


    • 18 min

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