Is Michigan’s $4.7B Infrastructure Plan the Final Fix for Detroit Region?  

An aerial shot of flooding in Detroit in recent years.

 

Nearly a year has passed and yet, the 2021 flooding is still a hot topic of conversation as Detroiters and others in the region faced catastrophic storms that damaged homes, property and vehicles with many grappling with the aftershocks to this day.   

However, the state has a plan with a newly formed $4.8 billion infrastructure plan signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer that is geared to address chronic flooding issues for regions throughout Michigan. Will this bring the city to the next step in infrastructure fixes, or would this just be a band-aid until another solution comes down the pike?  

Whitmer’s $4.8 billion Building Michigan Together Plan is to invest in new funding to “Fix the Damn Roads” while addressing flooding through this bipartisan investment signed in late March.  

“The Building Michigan Together Plan makes historic, bipartisan investments in the kitchen-table issues that matter most to Michigan families and builds on our work to fix the damn roads,” said Whitmer in a press release. “I am so proud that the Michigan legislature and I were able to come together to get this done and continue fixing the roads together with the right mix and materials, so they stay fixed. This plan will make a real difference in our communities, support thousands of good-paying jobs and set up Michigan’s economy for decades of success. It is a testament to what is possible when we put Michiganders first.”  

The Building Michigan Together Plan calls for critical investments of $645 million in Michigan’s infrastructure, including:  

  • $317 million for road and bridge programs, benefiting both state and local projects.  
  • $66 million to make state transportation infrastructure more resilient to future flooding events by adding reliable generator backup power to all 164 state-owned pumping stations.  
  • $93 million for airport infrastructure improvement grants.  
  • $66 million to improve public transportation.  
  • $25 million investment in the statewide Mobility Futures Initiative to position Michigan to lead the nation in mobility innovation.  

Whitmer signed the Building Michigan Together Plan into law, paving the way for nearly $5 billion in bipartisan investments that will benefit Michiganders by improving transportation and water infrastructure, supporting jobs and investing in every region of the state. The plan will make significant investments in Michigan’s roads, bridges, regional airports and transit, building on the progress achieved since Governor Whitmer took office by initiating dozens of projects and supporting thousands of jobs across Michigan.  

Last June in Wayne and Washtenaw Counties, the torrential rain and flooding during June 25-26 left thousands of residents with flood damage.  

The flooding resulted in damaged vehicles, waist-deep water in basements, sewage backup and destroyed valuables and memories.  

Detroit Water and Sewer Director Gary Brown said previously that this storm which he described as a 1,000-year storm, was the result of global warming and poor infrastructure, and someone needs to be held accountable.  

“We got a tremendous amount of water in a very short period of time,” Brown said of the up to eight inches of water flooding the streets, homes and businesses within a 19-hour timeframe. “Most of that came in three [hours] — we also know there were some pump failures. … We’ll find out what happened. Most importantly, what can you do to make this system more resilient, so it doesn’t happen [again].”  

Brown said that there was a lot of talk about the city’s infrastructure as it relates to underground water piping.   

Brown, who sits on the board of directors for the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), said that issues have already been identified including pump failures last year.  

“[We] are going to be very transparent about the outcome of what happened and how it happened, and most importantly how [we] are going to fix it,” he said. “People have now been flooded three or four times in the last two or three years — they want this fixed, and they deserve to have it fixed.”  

“This is the largest municipal utility in North America,” Brown said, adding that on the sewer side it is “the most complex system in America.” “You have pumps that [are] working in parallel or in conjunction with other pumps and it all has to be coming along and operating at the same time.”  

Brown said that the system was built 100 years ago and built for a 100-year storm.  

“With global warming, clearly the rainfall is more intense, more frequent than what took place 100 years ago, 50 years ago … this was called a 1,000-year storm by many meteorologists. The system is not built to handle that type of rain,” Brown said, adding that some plans could be put in place to fix the problem including a long-range plan, a permanent solution from GLWA to separate the piping that carries today both stormwater when it rains and sewage.  

That route would also cost about $17 billion — $8 billion of those dollars would have to be spent in the City of Detroit on assets, according to reports.  

Ypsilanti resident Andrea Young, 57, lived in an apartment complex during the summer 2021 flood, which she described as “terrible.”  

“It was just so much to deal with,” she said, adding that her apartment flooded and destroyed much of her property, along with a layer of mold being added to the mix.  

“I moved,” Young, who has upper respiratory issues, said. “Everybody flooded out there … it was terrible.”  

Young (also financially compensated by FEMA) said that she is looking forward to the state infrastructure funding, which she hopes would solve flooding problems once and for all.  

“It’s [a] loss,” Young said of flood-related damages. “Our politicians are failing us because I think some of [this] can be eliminated or curbed or something.”  

Digital Anchor Andre Ash contributed to this report.  

 

 

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