Gov-elect Snyder keeps MDOT Director Kirk Steudle

  A Detroit Free Press editorial explains it well: 

Gov.-elect Rick Snyder will find the road to a 21st Century transportation system bumpy — with plenty of detours and dead-ends. He made the trip a little smoother this week by retaining respected transportation professional Kirk Steudle as director of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

A professional engineer who has worked for MDOT for 23 years, Steudle is a nonpartisan who . . . has shown his political chops, repairing previously strained relations between MDOT and the Legislature.

Going forward, though, Steudle must do better:

He must become a stronger advocate for transit. Steudle gets passing marks here, having worked to advance a light-rail project in Detroit and high-speed rail between Detroit and Chicago. But inadequate funding threatens to dismantle a statewide transit system that is vital to Michigan’s future, even as the state’s two biggest urban regions plan to develop modern rapid transit service. Steudle must lead a statewide debate on transit services and how to pay for them. . . .

• Steudle must tell the new governor some things he may not want to hear about the need for a state gas tax increase. Now, Michigan’s transportation revenues fall more than $300 million a year short of what’s needed to maintain roads in their current condition.  In the long run, gas taxes will have to be replaced by other ways to pay for transportation. In the short run, however, a gas tax increase is absolutely necessary.

Michigan will face enormous challenges in developing a modern and adequate transportation system for the new century, but Snyder made a good first choice by keeping Kirk Steudle in the driver’s seat.