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Today, the League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB) and Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA) submitted a letter opposing a proposed amendment to HB 6151 and 6152 by the County Road Association of Michigan (CRAM).  As these Complete Streets bills reach the homestretch of the legislative process, CRAM is seizing this opportunity to attempt changes to Act 51, Section 10k, the only guaranteed source of funding for nonmotorized infrastructure in the state transportation budget.

As it currently stands, Section 10k requires (as it has for the past 32 years) that 1% of all surface transportation funding in the state transportation budget be allocated to nonmotorized transportation. Eligible projects can include sidewalks in cities and villages, bike lanes, widened shoulders, trails within the road right of way, campaigns for the safety of cyclists on Michigan roads and public education efforts in all jurisdiction that are eligible for transportation funding. This is not a hardship as jurisdictions have ten years in which to accumulate and spend these funds.  It should also be noted that nonmotorized facilities, such as bike lanes and wide shoulders, have been proven to extend the life of our roads by protecting their edges.

While CRAM has made it clear from day one that they oppose these bills, they have chosen not to express their opposition publicly and instead have stated both in the House and Senate that they support these bills “in concept only.”  Their last-minute attempt to tack on an unrelated issue to bills that have seen overwhelming nonpartisan support in both the House and Senate as well as the general public is certainly unfortunate to say the least.

HB 6151 and 6152 will soon be up for a vote on the Senate floor, possibly as soon as tomorrow, July 28th.  We are asking all Complete Streets supporters to voice support for these bills to your State Senator and express opposition to CRAM’s efforts to eliminate mandatory nonmotorized funding in Michigan.  A few bulleted concerns regarding CRAM’s ammendment are below and the letter of opposition by LMB and MTGA can be read here.

Concerns with CRAM Amendment:

  • MDOT does not have the ability to leverage the large variety of different funding sources to satisfy the 1% requirement making it no longer a level playing field.
  • Creates an environment of “haves, and have nots” among local road agencies. Some communities may not have the capacity, know how, or resources to leverage other sources of funding.
  • Utilization of other funding sources may create challenges associated with auditing, reporting enforcement of compliance by MDOT and the Michigan Department of Treasury.
  • Utilizing other sources may create issues associated with ensuring the funding is being used for appropriate non-motorized facilities.
  • Current nonmotorized funding needs far exceed the current 1% requirement which means they should be using all other available funds to match or leverage the 10k investment – NOT replace it!

R to L: A panel of supporters including the County Road Association of Michigan, Michigan Environmental Council, Michigan Fitness Foundation, Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, AARP and Representative Jon Switalski testifying in support of HB 6151 and 6152.

The House Transportation Committee voted unanimously to pass  HB 6151 and HB 6152 out of committee, with recommendations. This is a big success for Complete Streets, and the Coalition would like to thank all of the stakeholders who worked hard to negotiate a bill that was eventually able to garner such strong support. We would especially like to thank Rep. Wayne Schmidt for his leadership on this issue, as well as Rep. Pam Byrnes, Rep. John Switalski and their staffs, who put a lot of effort to achieve this victory. In hectic fashion, the final drafts of the bills were being revised right up to the last minute, modified to reflect the negotiations made between all parties involved. As Chairwoman Byrnes said, reflecting on the compromises reached, “This bill is not what everybody wants, but it’s a good step forward.”

As the result of negotiations MML, SEMCOG, MDOT and CRAM, many of whom had previously only supported the bills in concept, are now strong supporters of the legislation. The support of these organizations, in addition to the support of most of the GOP members of the committee, bodes well for the future of the bills.

The final revision of the bill no longer requires local road agencies or municipalities to pass their own Complete Streets policies. MDOT, however, is still required to pass a Complete Streets policy, along with a ‘model’ policy for municipalities and counties. As Rep. Switalski said, this version of the bill gives “cities, and locals more say when dealing with transportation policy.” The final bill also gives the Complete Streets Advisory Council a much stronger role in the planning process, allowing them to advise MDOT on the adoption of Complete Streets policies.

Bill sponsor, Representative Jon Switalski, makes the case for Complete Streets in Michigan before the House Transportation Committee on June 24th, 2010. The Committee went on to vote unanimously in support of the legislation.

Felicia Wasson from AARP used her brief testimony to rightly note that this is “only the beginning – a first step” for Complete Streets. According to the revision, Complete Street policies must consider the “varying mobility needs of all legal users of the roadway, of all ages and abilities.” This language does indeed represent a great first step towards ensuring that everyone is entitled to use roadways safely and conveniently.

The bills will now be referred to the House floor for a second reading, followed by a vote by the full House of Representatives. Rep. Byrnes expects that the bills will be voted on by the House relatively soon.  After that, they are on to the Senate committee. It’s important to keep the energy and enthusiasm alive as the bills move forward – look for an updated action alert on our Take Action page in the next few days.

(For a complete look at the process the bills will follow as they become law, download a PDF copy of the Michigan Citizens Guide to State Government)

The Coalition would like to once again thank everyone who has worked with us to see that these bills get passed. Let’s use today’s success as a springboard to redouble our efforts, and push these important bills out of the House and through the Senate!

Additionally, League of American Bicyclists, Alliance for Biking and Walking, and the National Complete Streets Coalition all featured the efforts of Michigan’s Complete Streets movement on their blogs today.

Many more organizations and individuals provided testimony in support of Compete Streets that was entered into the record at the committee meeting as well. The following is list of links to .pdfs of those testimonies.

Michigan Complete Streets Coalition member, Norm Cox of the American Society of Landscape Architects used his testimony to state that HB 6152 and 6152 is "working to make amends for the lopsided transportation investments of the last 50-60 years," adding, "it's not taking money away, but redistributing it based on changing priorities."

The second House Transportation Committee hearing on Complete Streets legislation,  HB 6151 and 6152, saw the room once again packed with supporters of the policies. The legislation – which seeks to move Michigan away from auto-centric road designs and meet the needs of all roadway users – has attracted strong support from a broad range of advocates. A few of the groups represented at today’s hearing included: The American Heart Association, Crim Fitness Foundation and Citizens for a Safe Community.

The coalition would like to extend thanks to all those who spoke at the meeting today, as well to those that offered written testimony. Chairwoman Byrnes (D – Dist. 52) indicated she plans to hold a vote on the bills next week, and with some organizations like SEMCOG and MML still supporting the bill in concept only, it is important that the committee members continue to hear vocal support for these specific policies.

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