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January 9, 2019 9:45 AM, EST

Michigan DOT Opens Public Comment Period on Transportation Plan

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Michigan Department of Transportation is seeking public comment on the state’s plan to develop transportation goals for the next 25 years.

The long-range plan, dubbed Michigan Mobility 2045, will establish transportation priorities.

Metro Quest screen

MDOT announced the start of a public comment period Jan. 2.

Bradley Sharlow, supervisor of MDOT’s Urban Travel Analysis Unit, said one important goal for the plan is to spark public interest in policies and long-term transportation decisions. He said people tend to be more in tune with the projects that are happening around them than with projects that could be slated for future consideration.

“What is often a challenge is folks really understand and get passionate about a project that’s going on, whether they’re reconstructing a road or wanting to do some type of change to the infrastructure,” Sharlow said. “But getting folks to kind of think more abstractly about how all these policies that get put into this plan then affect what projects are selected down the road, sometimes that’s a little more challenging.”

MDOT is using a variety of methods to reach people, including in-person listening sessions, a mailed survey and telephone town hall meetings whereby 10,000 people are randomly selected to join a conference call to ask questions.

The agency is also using Metroquest, an online outreach tool that presents scenarios to the public that depict realistic transportation situations. Sharlow said MDOT received comments from 73 people within the first couple of days of the comment period using the tool.

“It’s a great sign that just in the first two days that we received that many comments,” Sharlow said. “It’s nice to see that folks are following our press releases and actively getting engaged.”

Sharlow said freight will take a prominent role in the long-range transportation plan. Michigan Mobility 2045 will incorporate considerations from both the state freight plan and the state rail plan. Sharlow identified expanding the state’s lock system and truck platooning as potential focus areas.

Intelligent transportation systems were a big push for Michigan’s previous governor, Rick Snyder. In a January 2018 interview with Transport Topics, Snyder said MDOT is adding vehicle-to-infrastructure connected technology to routes across the state.

Gretchen Whitmer

Whitmer

“Those are very relevant in terms of being concerns or at least opportunities for us to work toward advancement of new technology to make vehicles smarter and more connected with one another and the evolution of the trucking industry, as a result of that, are things we’re looking to address or at least try to account for as we create this vision,” Sharlow said.

Gretchen Whitmer was elected governor Nov. 6 and named Paul Ajegba, an engineer who has worked at MDOT for 28 years, as the agency’s new director. Sharlow said the agency will move in a positive direction under Ajegba’s leadership.

“Michigan residents have made loud and clear their concern over the state’s crumbling infrastructure, and no one understands those issues better than Paul,” Whitmer said in a statement. “His technical expertise and years of experience mean that we can get to work fixing the roads and fixing them right.”