Michigan’s aging infrastructure is no secret – “fix the damn roads” is now part of our lexicon, thanks to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s campaign. But the condition of infrastructure below those roads – the water mains, sewers, electric cables, gas lines and fiber optic cable – is often a mystery. When Woodward Avenue was dug up for the M1 rail line, for example, DTE underground crews found electric cable dating back to Thomas Edison’s era.
Michigan’s infrastructure was not built overnight. Century-old electric lines under Detroit’s main thoroughfare is a testament to that fact, and upgrading and modernizing the state’s infrastructure will take decades.
The Michigan Infrastructure Council (often referred to as “the MIC”) is putting together a long-term plan for how to accomplish this mighty task. The council, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, has put Michigan on the map as a national leader in infrastructure asset management. The non-partisan group has nine voting members comprised of mainly public-sector experts, along with Marco Bruzzano of DTE Energy who represents the private sector.
“Asset management is one of the core things we do as an energy company,” Bruzzano said. “At DTE, we are making large investments – replacing aging infrastructure, transforming our generation mix, strengthening the resiliency of the energy grid and modernizing it for changing customer needs. Because of all that, we can share best practices from our industry while also gaining valuable insights from the public sector that will benefit DTE and its customers.”
The council is mapping out a strategic framework to address critical infrastructure needs. Its scope includes water, transportation, energy and telecommunications-related infrastructure. Its mission is to define a vision and a 30-year investment plan for Michigan’s infrastructure that will provide the foundation for public and environmental health, economic prosperity, and quality of life.
The Michigan Infrastructure Council has defined five broad goals:
- Prioritize: Establish and document the condition of Michigan’s infrastructure to identify the needs of greatest priority.
- Coordinate: Align strategies for infrastructure management to ensure that Michigan’s assets are effectively and efficiently constructed, operated and maintained.
- Collaborate: Facilitate a coordinated, holistic approach that optimizes the engagement of all who manage and use Michigan’s infrastructure.
- Educate: Provide accurate and trusted information to support effective infrastructure decisions.
- Invest: Determine, recommend and advocate for adequate funding for Michigan’s infrastructure.
Ultimately, this means lower costs for residents and businesses – and fewer disruptions to our everyday lives. Perhaps the most tangible, practical example is if done right, crews would need to dig up a road just one time and do all needed underground infrastructure work at once – from laying new gas and power lines, to installing new sewers and fiber optic cables, and then paving it over. The end result: a nice, smooth road to drive on, with upgraded and modernized infrastructure underneath. And even more importantly the development and implementation of the plan will help reverse the decline in the condition of Michigan’s infrastructure we have seen over so many of the past years.
“We’re doing a lot of outreach and engagement activities to gather information and feedback from a wide range of stakeholder as we develop a robust plan on how to improve infrastructure across the state,” Bruzzano said. “Everyone on the council feels a responsibility and an urgency to addressing these challenges. Improving Michigan’s infrastructure is one goal we can all agree on.”