A bill midway through the Michigan statehouse would use transportation dollars for upkeep on the Mackinac Bridge rather than toll increases.
The state Senate voted 21-15 to approve a bill that would send $5.25 million in state funds to the Mackinac Bridge Authority to help cover costs for bridge repairs and offset a looming rate increase. The bill – SB981 – now heads to the House for further consideration. If approved there, it would move to Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s desk where a similar effort was vetoed in 2003.
The bridge authority is authorized to increase tolls to cover maintenance costs. Officials with the authority say toll increases are required because major work is needed for repairs and other improvements to the span that celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.
Tolls for big rigs are $3 per axle. A proposal would boost those rates to $5 per axle starting Jan. 1. Under a second proposal, trucks would pay $4 per axle starting in 2008 and $5 per axle starting in 2013.
The toll charged for most passenger vehicles is $2.50. It would increase to $4 under one plan. The second option is to charge those vehicles $3 next year, then $4 in 2013.
Commuters now paying $1.50 to cross the five-mile span linking the state’s Upper and Lower peninsulas would be charged $2 the first of the year. There would be no increase until 2013 under the second plan.
Sen. Jason Allen, R-Traverse City, said it makes more sense to set aside the transportation funds instead of relying on bridge users to dig deeper into their pockets.
Granholm is expected to veto the bill if it reaches her desk. Her administration said there are critical roads and bridges that the transportation funds would be better spent on.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Michigan in 2007, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor