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M1 Rail construction.

Two major projects that have gotten a lot of headlines are getting some more. Last night, interesting news from McClatchy came out. They’re reporting that two projects in Metro Detroit as well as a third in Michigan are on Donald Trump’s short list of infrastructure priorities.

These priorities were apparently gathered from Governor’s offices across the country, who were asked to give 3-5 suggestions each. The projects had to fit four criteria, according to the report:

  • A national security or public safety “emergency.”
  • “Shovel-ready,” with at least 30 percent of initial design and engineering work complete.
  • Direct job creator.
  • Project with the potential for increased U.S. manufacturing.

How important are these? Per the report:

The documents, circulated within the congressional and business communities, offer a first glimpse at which projects around the country might get funding if Trump follows through on his campaign promise to renew America’s crumbling highways, airports, dams and bridges.

There are 50 projects in the document. Let’s walk through the ones in Michigan. Here is the document itself for reference.

First, M1 Rail (also known as the QLINE). There’s a $528 million line item – similar to an earlier study in 2008 for the cost of taking the streetcar service to 8 Mile Road, although the map included in the document is for the current route.

Second, the Gordie Howe International Bridge. That’s a $4.5 billion item according to the document, with 13,000 jobs attached to it. The Canadian government has promised to pay for the bridge through a public-private partnership. The project has been mired in delays thanks to resistance from the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, billionaire Matty Maroun.

The third is in Michigan, but not metro Detroit. It’d be for a lock reconstruction up at the Soo Locks. The documents cite a report that if the Poe Lock was out of commission for six months, it would cost 11 million jobs and increase unemployment by 18 to 22 percent in the Great Lakes Region. On the other hand, a new lock would generate a whopping 15,000 jobs in the east Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That has a $580 million price tag.

It’s important to note that it isn’t clear if this list is preliminary or final, and that the proposal is that these would be funded as half public and half private partnerships. President Trump has little intention of a traditional direct infrastructure spend bill, but instead, wants to wherever possible work with the private sector to fund projects with those PPPs (Public-Private Partnerships).

That might work well for something like M1 Rail where corporations and non-profits have already stepped up and may well again for matching funds; or with the bridge, where there’s already a partner in place like the Canadian government. But infrastructure with a low return on investment might not make the cut, or face higher user fees under that funding model.

The total nationally that would be spent under this plan would be $137.5 billion, including money already spent on some of the projects.