NEW: Media coverage on Dan Gilmartin’s testimony:
Detroit Free Press: “Michigan’s Lousy Roads: Congressional Panel Get an Earful” and same article on Wopular.
Dave Aklery Show on WILS Radio 1320: “Dan Gilmartin”
News Talk 94.9 WSJM: “Municipal League Wants Federal Infrastructure Money” and same piece in 97.5 Y Country
Town Crier Wire: “Municipal League Wants Federal Infrastructure Money”
U.S. House of Representative: Meeting Minutes
View photos from Michigan Municipal League members in D.C. this week for the Congressional City Conference.
Dan Gilmartin, CEO and executive director of the Michigan Municipal League, gave stirring testimony about the poor condition of the nation’s roads, bridges and infrastructure before a Congressional Senate committee Tuesday in Washington D.C. Dan even got in an “Animal House” movie reference during an exchange with Congressional leaders.
Gilmartin testified in a hearing titled, “Rebuilding Infrastructure in America: State and Local Transportation Needs” before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. His testimony was on behalf of the National League of Cities, which this week is hosting the Congressional Cities Conference in D.C. Other speakers included Kyle Schneweis, Director, Nebraska Department of Transportation; Jordan Kass, President, Managed Services, TMC Division, C.H. Robinson; Jo Strang, Senior Vice President, Safety and Regulatory Policy, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.
An outline of Gilmartin’s comments are below and among his most impactful comments came during the question and answer portion of the hearing when Gilmartin fielded questions from U.S. Senators, including U.S. Senator Gary Peters, D-Michigan.
The poor condition of Michigan’s infrastructure is a key issue for the Michigan Municipal League and it’s SaveMICity municipal finance reform initiative. Having a strong vibrant infrastructure is essential to creating places and communities where people want to live, work and play, Gilmartin said.
“Our transportation infrastructure in Michigan is as bad as it’s ever been,” Gilmartin told the committee during the question and answer segment. “The spring thaw comes and on occasion we start picking up potholes and those types of things and we’re all kind of used to that. But this year is a special kind of ugly on Michigan roads.It has gone from a difficult experience to at times a frightening one.”
In referencing a recent civil engineering report that came out and gave Michigan a D plus on infrastructure, Dan gave an analogy from the film, “Animal House” while explaining we need to do more than just fix the infrastructure we have. We also need to plan for the new economy.
“I said to a friend of mine that the grades there (in that report) looked like when Dean Wormer brought in the brothers from Delta House to give them their grade point averages in ‘Animal House’, everything was bad. And we see that consistently throughout our state. To go beyond that, I talked a lot in my testimony about the importance of re-imagining our infrastructure. Because rebuilding what we have is one thing. We see differences in economics, we see differences in people choosing how they transport themselves – how they want to move around in regional economies – and we’ve got to be building for new as well. We’re in that space I talked about where we’re in a real jam because we’ve got to fix what we have and we’ve got to prepare ourselves for the new economy.”
Good afternoon, Chairman Fischer, Ranking Member Peters and Members of the Subcommittee.
I am Dan Gilmartin, the Executive Director and CEO of the Michigan Municipal League, and I am thankful for the opportunity to speak with you today about rebuilding and reimagining our nation’s infrastructure. I am here on behalf of the cities and villages in my state as well as the National League of Cities, which represents 19,000 cities and towns of all sizes across the country. First, let me commend the Committee — and Senator Peters in particular — for his work to engage with cities on the A.V. START Act. Second, yesterday NLC released a report, Bridging the Urban-Rural Economic Divide. It highlights the importance of economic connections, such as infrastructure connectivity and market access, to create sustainable growth and bridge the gap between urban and rural America. The full report is in the written testimony.
Local-Federal Partnership on Infrastructure
Cities are your partner in infrastructure. Local governments own, operate and maintain 78 percent of the nation’s road miles, 43 percent of the nation’s federal-aid highway miles, 50 percent of the nation’s inventory and support our vital local transit systems. Additionally, local governments fund 95 percent of the nation’s water and wastewater investments.
Local Priorities for Infrastructure Investment
We believe a national, comprehensive infrastructure bill is essential, and it should support five guiding principles:
- Sustainable Investment.Together, cities and our federal partners must address the existing core infrastructure backlog, reestablish long-term funding and use new technologies that will serve America’s cities for the next 100 years. Without sustainable funding, we will simply continue to manage the decline of our transportation networks.
- Locally-Driven Projects.Local leaders should be given a strong voice in decision making as they are best positioned to identify where infrastructure needs are the greatest. As you’ve seen from the popularity of programs like TIGER grants, the silos of the past are not a good match for the needs of a strong modern network that are crucial to the creation of authentic, vibrant local places that drive economic prosperity today.
- Federal-Local Partnership.Cities across this country are investing billions of their own resources and need a steady federal partner to fund existing national programs and make significant capital investments for the long-term benefit of the economy. Infrastructure projects are planned years in advance. Having a reliable federal source of funding will allow local communities to properly plan and build for the future.
- Expand Revenue Tools.Cities should be given more flexibility to raise revenues and use innovative financing techniques while protecting existing tools. We stand ready to work with you to identify new opportunities.
- Rebuild and Reimagine. We are investing in intermodal, sustainable and interconnected places that people want to live, learn, work and play. Congress should invest in cities’ vision to rebuild and reimagine America’s infrastructure, ultimately bolstering economies across the country.
We believe these principles form the foundation for America’s next infrastructure investment. Every day we wait, our nation’s infrastructure gap grows. A band aid approach no longer serves the interests of Americans. WWJ in Detroit recently described life on Michigan’s roads like this, “Broken rims, torn tires, endless commutes, waiting for hours on the side of the freeway for overworked tow drivers.” As somebody who drives those roads I can tell you that is true.
For their part, cities are reinventing Michigan, we are doing our part. Residents have responded by supporting more than 80% of local millages on the ballot. The State legislature has raised the state’s gas tax and increased registration fees, but funding levels still fall far short of the actual need. Now is the time for the federal government to partner with us and pass an infrastructure package that addresses the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund and provides cities in Michigan and those across America with a reliable transportation network for the 21st century and beyond. We know that bridging the $2 trillion shortfall won’t be easy and will take a significant commitment from every level of government – federal, state and local. But we cannot continue to watch our major infrastructure systems break down in slow motion, we must address the significant workforce pipeline gaps across all the sectors that build our roads, maintain our bridges and operate our water systems.
America’s infrastructure is a system being pushed to its limits and the time to act is now.
On behalf of cities across the country, we ask you to partner with us and take the necessary steps to rebuild and reimagine America’s infrastructure as a modern, safe, reliable and efficient model for the world. I thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony and I look forward to your questions.