Blog: Melissa Trustman

Melissa Trustman is the senior director of Government Relations at the Detroit Regional Chamber. Melissa manages transportation policy and monitors emerging issues that impact trade and infrastructure within Southeast Michigan.

Post No. 4

Making the Investment 

Current Conditions

Because of our big infrastructure needs in the Detroit Region, we have big bills.  To give you an idea, here are some statistics from SEMCOG to put it perspective: 

  1. 37,000 miles of public and local roads
  2. 3,551 bridges – 1,164 of which are deficient (down from 1,251 in 2000)
  3. Over $70 billion in road and transit needs
  4. Only $40 available in current revenue streams
SEMCOG has developed a nationally recognized asset management program that considers all of the regional transportation assets, their condition and how to best effectively maintain those assets. Effectively, this aggregates all of our individual needs into one big picture to see how it all works together. There is, as illustrated from the statistics, a much greater need than available funds. As with any budgeting process, this means priorities must be made.

Planning for the Future

When planning for retirement or investing for any particular purpose, your financial advisor will always start by asking about your goals. Those goals could be anything from your kid’s college to early retirement, but the root of the question is to figure out how much you need and how much time you have to get to that point.   

The same is true for our infrastructure.  We could plod along, reacting to another congested roadway or deteriorating bridge, all the while not improving the mobility and effectiveness of our system. Alternatively, we could decide what our economy and our citizens need to thrive in the long run and implement projects that nourish those needs. 

Policy Implications

Two themes dominate the transportation landscape in Lansing today (actually, there are many more…but right this second, it’s two): planning and funding. 

On the funding side, the Public Private Partnership (P3) has been eyed as the next solution to our unlimited wants and very limited budget. A number of regions have used this solution to own and operate, just operate or have direct input on their infrastructure assets and spending. The most successful and currently proliferated model is one in which a private entity manages a particular public asset. 

On the planning side, the DRIC (Detroit River International Crossing), a study to look at an additional Detroit-Windsor border crossing, is stacking up support and opposition throughout the legislature. Unfortunately, this discussion has become emotional and that’s not what it’s about. In the next 30 years, total US-Canada trade by truck is expected to increase by 128% and vehicle traffic could climb by 57%. Research has indicated that the Detroit-Windsor border crossing could reach capacity as early as 2015.   

Both discussions are centered in making and achieving goals for our future.That’s something any financial advisor would certainly endorse.