MARQUETTE - A crumbling, dilapidated Michigan infrastructure is dangerous and costly to state residents and that cost is only going to continue growing, according to the co-founder of a group pushing for more funding to repair that infrastructure.
Speaking Tuesday morning at Peter White Public Library was Jim Shea, co-founder of Students Reinventing Michigan, a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase an interest in government among young people by holding a legislative writing competition.
"The program itself is such a wonderful thing," Shea said. "This experience reaches every aspect of their lives ... It makes them critical thinkers."
The crumbling pavement on Meeske Avenue in Marquette is shown above. Jim Shea, co-founder of Students Reinventing Michigan, made a presentation in Marquette Tuesday as part of a series of meetings in the Upper Peninsula this week to push his plan for more funds to repair Michigan roads. (Journal photo by Matt Kaiser)
The topic of 2011's competition was "How the Legislature Can Improve Michigan's Infrastructure with Public Support in These Challenging Times."
Students in universities and high schools across the state were eligible to compete for the $10,000 prize given to first place.
Students completed a plan that would help solve the problem highlighted by the topic - a crumbling state infrastructure - and submit it as a legislative proposal for judging.
The winning plan this year outlined the extravagant cost to Michigan taxpayers of roads that continue to stay in poor condition, and how to turn that problem around.
The idea is to fix what Shea called the "catastrophic problems" first, then rely on preventative maintenance to keep the roads in good condition at a minimal cost.
"It's the catastrophic thing that kills," Shea said during his presentation. "We've got to take care of the catastrophic and then work on preventative things."
Shea is a partner in P.K. Contracting, a downstate Troy-based company that paints lines on highways.
He said roads in poor condition make it dangerous for everyone who uses the road system and that redirecting state funding would go a long way in providing the money needed to begin raising the standard for Michigan roads.
The solution Shea is advocating is an increase of $115 in yearly registration fees for vehicles registered in Michigan.
In theory, he said the added cost would eventually result in less costs to taxpayers, as better road conditions mean less wear and tear on vehicles in the state. This could potentially lower car insurance rates as well, Shea said, adding that better roads would also help cut down on the number of car accidents in Michigan.
"We're killing people. We're maiming people and we're spending our money unwisely," Shea said.
The 2012 Students Reinventing Michigan legislative topic has yet to be released.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.