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Posted on Thu, Feb 24, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

State Rep. Rick Olson to lead special House transportation committee eyeing funding options

By Ryan J. Stanton

State Rep. Rick Olson, a Republican from Washtenaw County's York Township, has been chosen to lead a special House Transportation Committee workgroup.

Olson was chosen by Transportation Committee Chairman Paul Opsommer of DeWitt to lead the group in building a consensus on transportation reform across the state. Olson will chair the effort with Rep. Roy Schmidt, D-Grand Rapids, serving alongside him.


Rick Olson

"This work is going to take a large group of stakeholders coming together to discuss the issues at hand and find common solutions," Olson said in a statement released this afternoon. "The Department of Transportation, contractors, unions, and of course the people of Michigan, will all be involved in shaping our recommendations."

Olson said his assignment to the workgroup is of particular importance to the 55th District, where the roads in Monroe County are in great need of help.

One of the first major issues the workgroup will seek to address is a lack of proper funding for state roads and bridges. The task of Olson's workgroup will be to find possible solutions and report back to the full House Transportation Committee.

"I look at this as both a transportation issue and a jobs issue," Olson said. "The Michigan Chamber fully supports road and infrastructure improvement because it is needed to support a healthy business climate and create jobs. Whenever we can improve transportation for residents and at the same time stimulate the economy, it's a win-win for taxpayers."

Olson said infrastructure improvements will play a major role in rebuilding Michigan's economy. For his entire presentation on Michigan's economic challenges, visit

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.


John Q

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

"I'll offer this suggestion, again. How about if they stop paying five guys to stand around and watch one guy work in every "work area?" If they use the funding that they currently get more efficiently, perhaps they can achieve their goals with the funding that they currently receive." The guys that work for private companies? That's who's doing the work in these work zones.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

I'm surprised I don't see gas tax opponents advocating that we discourage future development in the exurbs and encourage higher density zoning. Less sprawl = fewer roads to maintain = more $ to maintain what's already there.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 5:13 p.m.

Don't forget, a complete transportation system that includes pedestrian, bicycle, and transit options on equal footing (so to speak) with driving - if people can get where they need to go without a car, that reduces congestion, reduces the need to widen roads (or build new parking structures), reduces road wear, and overall saves money to keep the roads we already have in good condition. Even rail options, while some shortsightedly mock them ("choo choo"?), can be ways to save money. If we can address congestion on US-23 with a $32m rail project, rather than a $500m expansion, then spending 15 times as much on a road would be sheer madness.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 4:12 p.m.

They could also stop diverting current gasoline taxes towards non-road expenditures, like bike lanes, pedestrian walkways and hizzoner's beloved choo-choos. That would help to increase the amount of dollars available for road construction and repair without requiring an increase in taxes.

WatsonCome Here

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

Rick is a great asset in the state house and has a critical mind which he brings to problem solving. He is focused on jobs and I know he will "do the right thing" for the 55th district ... he will bring people together to solve problems.Go Rick Olson.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 12:38 p.m.

Happy fun ball is right (with Dilbert's addition, though I'd add 5) more private road maintenance). I can't see any tax increase happening now. If we were to increase taxes, it would make more sense to increase the weight tax, or better yet, figure out a way to tax based on mileage *and* increase the weight tax. What's the gas tax on a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt? The per axle weight tax makes sense because weight, along with the freeze/thaw cycle, is part of what damages the roads. If only motorcycles, bicycles, and minis were using the roads, they'd last nearly forever, even with the freeze/thaw cycle. Oh, forgot the other tax idea; we could add a road luxury tax. There are enough Lexus's (Lexi?), BMWs, and Jaguars around here to cover better roads for half the state. But taxing the rich is no longer American, so forget I said that. But with tax increases off the table, the only option left is to downgrade roads. We'll probably get to the point that anything less than a regional collector doesn't get or stay paved unless the property owners cover most of the cost. We can all pay in taxes or pay through lost time, maintenance fees, and repair costs.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 11:15 a.m.

I'll offer this suggestion, again. How about if they stop paying five guys to stand around and watch one guy work in every "work area?" If they use the funding that they currently get more efficiently, perhaps they can achieve their goals with the funding that they currently receive.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 1:47 a.m.

You people with the raise the gas tax ideas are misinformed. The gas taxes are already there. And just like all the lottery revenue. It does not get spent on the stated programs they were intended for. Why dont we make the state legislators, senators etc etc all take severe pay cuts. That might fix the roads. We all know the best roads in the state are all in Lansing.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 1:17 a.m.

Raisin' taxes - is that all you got? - give me a break. Can't you people think of anything else? Three other ideas - 1) Increase the proportion of gravel roads in the state. By a lot! Yea - I hate it too, but dirt roads cost pennies on the dollar to maintain - as when compared to asphalt. Most of the back country roads are still dirt anyways. Pittsfield township has dirt roads in subs. Next decade, if we ever get out of this economic mess, we can repave. 2) Increase the road building guarantees - in Germany road builders have to back up their work for a long time - so they use great materials and great practices or else they end up re-doing their work for free. This would also help with all the orange cone delays we experience every summer - which is a catastrophe in itself. Talk about inefficiency. 3) Drop all that Davis Bacon 'prevailing' wage business - if a contractor can come in a bid a job for less (to top quality standards) Why not use them? We have no money as it is - soon we will have no roads. I am a taxpayer and I am broke - raising taxes is not an option.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 5:19 a.m.

4) more private roads (sub-divisions and side streets)


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 12:28 a.m.

A gas tax would be absolutely brutal on poor people who barely afford to get to and from work or school.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

"Absolutely brutal"? Really? A ten cent increase in the gas tax would amount to about two dollars more to fill a twenty gallon tank. I do that once a week, and I'm sure I'm just your average joe on the road. You're telling me that most could not afford that extra two dollars a week? How about if they forego a pack of cigarettes or a beer to make up for it? Spare me, please.

John Q

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

How is the gas tax "not an option"? The same things that you said are equally true about every other tax in this state. Tnat doesn't change the fact that the gas tax is the most logical way to collect revenue for roads.


Thu, Feb 24, 2011 : 11:49 p.m.

A ten cent a gallon increase in the gas tax, restricted to road building and repair is my choice for a source of funding.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

I'm with you. AND the money is earmarked for roads only, so the legislature can't touch it to make up for shortfalls elsewhere.


Thu, Feb 24, 2011 : 11:49 p.m.

John Q - The problem with the gas tax is that as the population declines in the state, miles driven is down hence less tax revenue. Raising the tax is not an option.


Fri, Feb 25, 2011 : 2:10 p.m.

Latest census numbers put Michigan's population loss at less than 100k since the 2000 census, or less than 1% of the state's almost 10 million residents. Do you somehow believe people are backed up at the border trying to leave our state?

John Q

Thu, Feb 24, 2011 : 11:25 p.m.

It's simple. Raise the gas tax. It's a user fee for those who use the roads. As we've seen this past week, gas prices fluctuate up and down much more from market causes than anything we would see from a gas tax increase.