Just a month after Governor Snyder signed the long overdue funding package to help restore the State’s transportation infrastructure, House Bill 5016 jeopardizes road projects by threatening to increase the price tag associated with making improvements, potentially costing the public - in Kent County, alone - hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The proposed legislation would require that public road agencies provide telecommunication companies a one-year advance notice if an upcoming project requires relocation of the telecom’s facilities (i.e. wires, cable and other utility lines) from the public right of way. If the one-year advance notice is not provided, road agencies must reimburse the telecoms for the cost of relocating their facilities.
While at first glance the one-year advance notice may seem like a reasonable proposal, the nature of road improvements and the multiple factors that cause frequent design plan and schedule modifications, make the one-year notice unrealistic. This leaves KCRC questioning why legislators would support a bill that could cost the public hundreds of thousands of dollars annually while the for-profit telecoms already occupy the public right of way free of charge.
In a letter to Michigan legislators, Steve Warren, Managing Director of the Kent County Road Commission (KCRC), specifies the reasons why the proposal is impractical and, if passed, how KCRC would be forced to respond.
“This entire concept is unacceptable. A one-year notice is not realistic for most of the work that road commissions perform,” wrote Warren. “After a long and difficult debate over the future of funding transportation, I don’t believe that this is how the public wants their transportation dollars spent – to assist for-profit companies in relocating their privately owned facilities at the expense of improving publicly owned roads.”