The Detroit News: Opinion: Feds should fund the Beck Road project

 In News & Updates

Arriving in Congress this year, the mantra for success I adopted was to listen, learn and lead, in that order. Putting into place a long-overdue premium for the people of Michigan’s 11th district on transparency and accessibility, with a commitment to govern through hands-on deliberation, my first term in Congress began.

After wrapping up my “24 Towns in 24 Days” district tour to spend time with municipal leaders, community stakeholders and the hardworking men and women of our district, a few observations crystalized.

From holding a health care town hall at Fox Run in Novi, Community Conversations in Wixom and South Lyon, and town halls on healthcare and electric vehicles in Canton, it became abundantly clear that pragmatic, collaborative, forward-thinking policymaking is the only way to make meaningful progress.

At town halls and coffee shops, my constituents repeatedly voiced their frustration about the lack of progress on major issues like gun safety and health care costs, where the Senate has refused to take up reasonable, bipartisan legislation passed by the House of Representatives.

No issue is more palpable than everyday infrastructure. Every municipal leader has brought this to my attention with an alarming ferocity. As our country pays a serious economic price — right now, and in the long term — my district has experienced a systemic lack of federal investment for decades. I hear regularly from our city managers, township supervisors, and locally elected mayors — from Auburn Hills to White Lake, Novi, and down to Canton — that it is imperative for us to work together to address these infrastructure needs.

One issue staring us in the face is what the people of Wixom, Novi, and Northville are experiencing with the effort to improve Beck Road. Beck Road is a decades-old, undersized three-lane stretch of road. Since 2011, the local community in Wixom has sought to expand this to five lanes to improve traffic flow and safety for drivers and pedestrians alike.

There are approximately 7,000 jobs within one mile on either side of Beck Road, with hundreds of companies that rely on this road for freight and customer traffic. The average daily traffic count on this road has more than doubled over the past 20 years, resulting in a crash frequency that is 10 times worse than the regional average.

Yet, municipal leaders in the area tell me that numerous attempts to receive federal support from the U.S. Department of Transportation have been denied at every turn. Notably, of the $7.1 billion that has been doled out nationally for projects of this nature over the last decade, projects in Michigan’s 11th district have received a whopping $0.

With all the incredible economic output and manufacturing innovation taking place in our region, this cannot stand. I’ve taken my message right to the top by inviting the U.S. secretary of transportation, Elaine Chao, to come see the Beck Road Improvement Corridor firsthand.

Funding the Beck Road project is an easy call, and an appropriate use of federal infrastructure funds with a high return on the public investment. After my 24 Towns in 24 Days tour, I returned to Washington with one simple message from my constituents to my colleagues in Congress: no more distractions. Let’s focus on getting things done and making life better for the people we serve.

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