Gov. Rick Snyder plans to improve transportation, attract young people


In an effort to retain more young people in Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder said he will begin taking steps to improve transportation in the state’s southeast corner, hoping to attract more young people to the Detroit area.

The governor gave a special address Wednesday at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Mich., outlining a broad initiative designed to improve the state’s roadways and public transportation services, including upgrades to passenger rail and changes in gas taxes.

After briefly discussing the issue in a speech at MSU last week, Snyder said his administration will begin looking at speeding up passenger trains and buses in the Detroit area in hopes to attract young people to Michigan’s largest urban center and make transportation easier for people in those areas.

“That is one of the main attractors of young people,” Snyder said, adding youth retention was one of the main concerns he heard while on the campaign trail. “Besides jobs, it was keeping kids in our state.”

Although there are no upgrades slated in the plan for the line running from Port Huron, Mich. through East Lansing, the city of East Lansing and the Michigan Department of Transportation, or MDOT, are applying for a grant this week to build a new train station, MDOT Director Kirk Steudle said following Snyder’s speech.

But in regard to rail upgrades, Steudle said the governor and MDOT are focusing on southeast Michigan lines, which he said are in much worse condition than the tracks in East Lansing.

Still, the line that services the East Lansing station has had its fair share of struggles in the past.

Last summer, passenger trains speeds were slowed because of a conflict between Amtrak and a separate company who owns the tracks.

Another major part of Snyder’s plan involves changing gas taxes from a flat-rate system to a percentage-based system — the same way federal income taxes operate — designed to make the revenue stream flexible with inflation.

Advocates say the shift would make for a more consistent level of monetary power.

“I’m very pleased to hear the governor’s proposal,” economics professor Charles Ballard said, adding the tax would not affect consumer gas prices.

But some leaders doubted the plan’s power.

“The ideas the governor proposed today are the same tired proposals we’ve heard in years past,” State Sen. Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, said in a statement.

“It’s disappointing that he would deliver such an underwhelming response to a critical need for our state.”

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