LANSING, Mich.— State Reps. John Kivela and Scott Dianda and state Sen. Tom Casperson were on hand Tuesday to hear testimony from Marquette County Road Commission Chair Dave Hall, Vice Chair Joe Valente, and Engineer Jim Iwanicki with regard to House Resolution 13, House Concurrent Resolution 1 and Senate Resolution 9, respectively.
The resolutions are in support of the Marquette County Road Commission’s appeal of the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to deny approval for the building of County Road 595, which would divert a vast majority of the commercial vehicle traffic that is currently passing through Northern Michigan University and the cities of Marquette, Negaunee and Ishpeming by completing a new Class A road over a 21-mile dirt road connecting County Road AAA in Michigamme Township with U.S. 41 in Humboldt Township.
“Considering the level of importance to the region that these resolutions represent, it was great to have members of the Marquette County Road Commission in attendance and participate in this important meeting today,” said Kivela, D-Marquette. “I was very pleased to see the unanimous, bipartisan support of the House Transportation Committee in voting these resolutions out of committee today.”
Tuesday’s joint House and Senate Transportation Committee meeting heard testimony and a detailed presentation by both legislators and the Marquette County Road Commission on HR 13, HCR 1 and SR 9.
“The Commission has to take a stand when it comes to this vital issue,” said Joseph Valente, vice chair of the Marquette County Road Commission. “The safety of our citizens is our number one priority. Since this road opened, there have been two major accidents resulting in critical injuries. Trucks of this size should not be on such a road, and giving them an alternative route will decrease such accidents.”
“County Road 595 is about economic development. We don’t need to go on a trade mission to China or to Poland to drum up business—we can create jobs right here at home,” said Dianda, D-Calumet. “Since the founding of Michigan, industry in the UP has contributed to the state’s coffers and the growth of our nation. Our copper helped electrify the country and Henry Ford logged here to make parts for his Model Ts. We have an abundance of resources that can contribute to problems we are having as a state paying for infrastructure. It’s time to move forward.”
Much of the testimony centered on the environmental and safety aspects related to construction of the road. Nearly 100 semi-trucks and contractor vehicles travel the 120-mile round trip every day from the mine to Humboldt along a route that includes portions of County Road 550 and other local streets. These trucks carry heavy loads through communities and across the campus of Northern Michigan University In fact, the testimony was so compelling that it led one Detroit-area Representative to label the EPA’s actions as “shameful.”
“The EPA’s ruling is arbitrary and unreasonable. I continue to applaud the Road Commission’s decision to appeal the EPA’s action and have the courage to stand up for the constituents we serve as construction of County Road 595 will only foster economic growth as well as increased safety for our Upper Peninsula roadways,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “I am grateful the Road Commission traveled all the way down to Lansing for our committee and think that it proves not only the resolve of the commission on this issue but the significance of this issue to the area and to the UP.”
HR 13 and HCR 1 passed the joint committee unanimously, with a vote expected on SR 9 next week.