Gov. Snyder wants MDOT to study I-94 after massive pileup

Dinah Owiti's car after the crash, but before the fire. (Jan. 9, 2015)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Governor Rick Snyder has asked the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Transportation to conduct a study of the stretch of I-94 just west of Battle Creek where nearly 200 vehicles crashed earlier this month.

MDOT Director Kirk Steudle sat down with 24 Hour News 8 Friday, saying that the study came about after the governor’s office was contacted by state senator Margaret O’Brien, who expressed concerns following the fatal, fiery crash.

US Representative Fred Upton also expressed concerns in the days followed the wreck, saying that he believed the highway should be widened.

Crews work to remove the wreckage from I-94 after two major crashes. (Jan. 9. 2015)
Crews work to remove the wreckage from I-94 after two major crashes. (Jan. 9. 2015)

“We are going to put together a joint team of state police experts and transportation engineers, traffic engineers, roadway engineers the rest,” said Steudle.  “We’re going to look at the safety numbers, and the accident numbers and pinpoint exactly where they’re at.”

Steudle said at this point he couldn’t rule out the problem is a structural issue, saying rather, that’s what the study will uncover.

“We’re going to bring in the engineers and were gonna look and see is the slope of pavement right, is something too narrow, that’s what we’re going to look at,” said Steudle. “So I don’t want to preclude it saying, ‘oh, there isn’t anything there could be

‘ and that’s what we’re going to look at.”

Steudle said the study will look at not just one stretch of the highway, but the entire road, across the whole state.

“We’re going to look at it, were gonna compare it to the rest of I-94, and really see if there’s something that needs to be done that we can do quickly,” said Steudle.  “And what is — what would a longer term widening cost to do — I can tell you it wouldn’t be cheap, but under our current budget I can’t tell you where that money’s coming from.”

Steudle also addressed 24 Hour News 8’s questions about if toll roads would be a solution to the road funding issue.

He said that whenever the issue of road funding comes up, inevitably the question of toll roads do too.

“Illinois, Indiana, Ohio [all] have a toll road that is self-funding, and takes all of that revenue and invests it right back into that asset,” said Steudle.  “We in the state Michigan, the decision was made 40-50 years ago, we’re not going to have toll roads.”

>>Inside Why doesn’t Michigan have toll roads?

Steudle went on to say that the decision from decades ago may not be one that’s set in stone.

“I would say toll roads is a conversation that we all need to have, and that we being society, and the citizens of Michigan need to decide, do we want to do this or not. It’s not something that’s going to happen fast,” said Steudle.

The May ballot proposal that would eliminate sales tax on gas, create a new gas tax, and also raise sales tax, is the more pressing issue for now to Steudle.  He admits it will be more money, but says if people want the roads fixed, the state needs more money somehow.

“It absolutely is worth it,” said Steudle about the extra money people would pay if the measure passes.  “And I think as I’ve asked people they say, ‘no we have to fix the roads.'”

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