Saturday, August 10, 2019

An impromtu town-hall meeting with my State Senator

Senator Barrett touring Shiawassee County after a tornado

I stumbled across my State Senator at one of the local grocery stores on Thursday.

We were in the Spices/Cooking/Flour/Sugar aisle. He was getting supplies for his daughter's birthday party.

His name is Tom Barrett, no relation to the people who make .50 caliber rifles.

We chatted about the rancor in Washington D.C. and road construction.

He informed me that the toxic partisanship seen in Washington was not evident in Lansing.
Senator Barrett, Republican, is on the left side of the photo.
Senator Barrett is a Republican.  Democrats swept the State-wide elections last time around.

Senator Barrett's perspective is purely pragmatic. "Many of my constituents voted for Governor Whitmer. Even if they didn't, she is still their governor."

"If I am going to be effective at representing my constituents, I need to be able to work with the governor. Legislature writes the laws but the governor signs them into law and is responsible for the nuts-and-bolts of how they are applied" he said.

I found that viewpoint refreshing. Professional, even.

Senator Barrett is on the Transportation Committee. I expressed my dismay at the level of road maintenance this summer.

Senator Barrett pointed out that even though Michigan's population peaked fifteen years ago, people continued to move out of core-cities and now have longer commutes.

In 1975 the worker might have moved out of Detroit into Warren, Dearborn, Sterling Heights or Livonia...first and second ring suburbs.

In 2000-2010 they moved from Warren and Dearborn to South Lyons and Howell. Commutes went from walking distance in the 1950s and '60s,  to fifteen miles in the 1980s to thirty, forty or even fifty miles in the 2000s.

Even though the population flat-lined, the number of paved miles to maintain increased.

The roads and lanes that were first paved in 1995-2000 are now due for maintenance.

Another factor that is driving cost and complexity is that the gravel deposits in southeast Michigan were either depleted (rarely) or zoned out of existence.

Roughly speaking, the cost of gravel doubles between the price at the pit and thirty miles from the pit. It triples at sixty miles. Longer distances between the pit and the repair increases the number of trucks and their interactions with traffic.

Gravel, boring as it is, is a major cost driver in road construction and road maintenance. Dollars don't go as far...even adjusted for inflation...when you have to import gravel from the hinterboonies.

It is reassuring that the basic blocking-and-tackling of governing is still being executed at the state level, at least in the fly-over state of Michigan.


  1. Good news, at least up there. Re the gravel prices. Supply and demand, and delivery costs... Always up, never down on the price.

  2. Commutes in walking distances.
    Thanks for the video.
    Someday I'll binge on Jam Handy Videos, ending with Rudolph


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