Four join the Michigan Transportation Hall of Honor
LANSING, Mich. – A long-serving and innovative Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) director, a creative MDOT leader and problem-solver, a passionate supporter of railroad safety, and a tireless advocate for transportation systems and improving career opportunities for minorities and women were among those inducted on Oct. 26 into the Michigan Transportation Hall of Honor.
The Hall of Honor, a permanent display in the Van Wagoner Transportation Building in Lansing, was established in 1971 to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions to developing Michigan’s network of highways, roads, streets, transit systems, railroads, airports, and waterways. Members are elected by a committee representing a wide range of transportation industry organizations. With the inclusion of this year’s honorees, a total of 92 people has been inducted into the Hall of Honor.
Here are this year’s honorees:
Kirk T. Steudle, South Lyon, served as director of MDOT from 2006 until 2018, spanning two administrations, an unprecedented tenure in the department’s modern era. Among myriad accomplishments as director, he laid the foundation for innovation, overseeing the department’s first “bridge slide,” its first public-private partnership (P3) for freeway lighting, and the state’s first freeway “flex route,” allowing for the use of the shoulder during peak times on the heavily traveled US-23 corridor north of Ann Arbor. Steudle played a key role in negotiating an agreement with the Canadian government for the Gordie Howe International Bridge, including creation of the international bridge authority for oversight.
As a nationally recognized thought leader in the deployment of connected and automated vehicles, Steudle helped open the 32-acre Mcity at the University of Michigan, dedicated to researching the technology. He also was a leader in developing the 500-acre American Center for Mobility, where he briefly served as interim CEO/president in 2018. Steudle served a number of years on the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) board of directors, including a term as president in 2011-2012. He also served on the ITS America Board of Directors, including a term as chair, and as a member of the Transportation Research Board executive committee.
Gregory C. Johnson, Wixom, served in a number of significant leadership roles at MDOT, including as chief operations officer from 2011 to 2015. In that role, he oversaw a department-wide realignment to gain efficiencies and better responsiveness to customers in a challenging transportation funding environment. Prior to serving as COO, he served as MDOT Metro Region engineer, shepherding some of the state’s largest freeway projects, including rebuilding M-10 (Lodge Freeway), I-96 west of Detroit, the I-94/US-24 (Telegraph Road) interchange, and completion of the Gateway project, which significantly improved the flow of traffic between Michigan and Canada.
Johnson was a champion of trying new things and leading on innovations, including paperless construction, construction manager/general contractor project delivery, and design-build and other innovative bidding methods. His uncanny ability to resolve conflicts and forge relationships with disparate groups, including the construction industry, lawmakers, and local officials, earned him a reputation as a problem-solver. Johnson was a staunch advocate for disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) and was instrumental in relaunching the Conference of Minority Transportation (COMTO) in Michigan.
Sam A. Crowl, Troy, was known as “Safety Sam” for his energy, attention, and dedication to railroad safety through his extensive railroad experience spanning more than five decades and a career with four railroad companies. In 2009, Crowl was appointed state coordinator of the nonprofit Michigan Operation Lifesaver, where he served for more than 10 years promoting the overall organization’s rail safety message through conducting classes and training sessions, attracting volunteers, staffing educational booths at events, coordinating the annual Rail Safety Week, working with government officials, and communicating with the media. He secured tens of thousands of dollars in grant funding to help support the organization’s outreach activities over the years. Through his hard work and passion for safety, Crowl has undoubtedly saved many lives and prevented injuries to the public, especially children, around railroad property and at crossings.
Sharmyn Elliott (1955-2022) demonstrated a tireless commitment to improved transportation systems for the public and was a passionate advocate for opportunities for minorities and women. He had a 45-plus year career in infrastructure engineering and was a steadfast supporter of multimodal transportation users. He was not able to attend college and joined the workforce immediately after graduating high school. He was unashamed of his education in the “University of Hard Knocks.”
Elliott began his career in 1973 as a construction field engineering technician and ascended to top positions with various firms, lastly as vice president of Somat Engineering, Inc. and CEO of Somat Engineering of Ohio, Inc. Among his many honors, he was selected to represent the transportation industry in 2021 as a subject matter interviewee for the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee regarding the U.S. Department of Transportation DBE reauthorization and was a board member of COMTO Michigan and COMTO National. Elliott was a strong supporter of MDOT’s Transportation Diversity Recruitment Program (TDRP), which began with four college interns in 2014 and in 2022 placed 65 interns within MDOT and the industry.
Congratulations to this year’s honorees for their hard work, dedication, and service to the community.
Driving safely in work zones saves lives! Protect MI work zones by taking the pledge.
I have some GREAT news for our veterans: last week, my bipartisan Solid Start Act was signed into law. This bill requires the VA to reach out to veterans three times in their first year of separation from the military to connect them with benefits and resources they’ve earned which can help with their transition.
I want to be clear: this will be huge for veterans exiting the service and will go a long way towards connecting them to the benefits they‘re entitled to. I’ve heard from many Michigan veterans who either don’t know which VA programs can help them, or feel that “go to the VA” sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
Now that the Solid Start Act is law, new veterans will have the chance to talk to a real person over the phone, rather than navigate the sprawling VA bureaucracy. Instead of holding on the phone for hours and scouring confusing websites, getting benefits will look more like:
“Hi there, I’m calling from the VA as part of the Solid Start Program, I wanted to check in on how we can assist your transition? I can help you understand all of the medical, employment, or housing assistance you qualify for.”
“Yeah, I actually was hoping to get a VA mortgage loan, but I’m having trouble finding reputable providers.”
“Sure, no problem, I’ll send a list right over!”
When those who served return home, many of them don’t know about the benefits they have earned, making it much more difficult to transition to civilian life. We also know that in the first year of separation, suicide rates for vets are at their very highest. We can’t make the same mistakes with the latest generation of veterans, and this legislation is an important step forward.
I first introduced the Solid Start Act in Howell on Veterans Day in 2020. But the story of this legislation did not begin there. It actually started with an organization called VETLIFE, located right here in Livingston County. They had been looking to identify ways that veterans could be better connected to their earned VA benefits, as well as identify how the VA could conduct better outreach to the transitioning veteran community. They identified and zeroed in on Solid Start, which at the time was only a VA pilot program with an expiration date.
VETLIFE reached out to one of my staff members in our Lansing office – a veteran himself who works on vets issues. Our team took a long look at the program to see how we could write it into law and how it could be improved.
Through these conversations, the idea for the Solid Start Act emerged. We wrote the bill and asked around for co-sponsors, eventually bringing on my Republican colleague Rep. Dave Joyce. We tried to get it into the 2021 defense budget, but it was stripped out at the last second.
But after months of advocacy and outreach to my colleagues in the Senate, including Republican Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND), we secured the support to pass Solid Start unanimously. The final hurdle was passing the bill through the House. After an 11th hour challenge to the legislation, and some fiery debate, it finally passed.
The story of Solid Start was a textbook case in how legislation should be developed and passed. It wasn’t part of a thousand page omnibus package drafted in secret by party leadership, nor was it taken from a shadowy Washington think tank. Instead, the bill began with an idea from a local constituent, was built and drafted by a Representative and her legislative staff, and was passed through Congress using old-fashioned bipartisan negotiation and advocacy. And now that it’s been signed into law, the Solid Start Act will begin to assist the very folks who inspired it.
I hear all the time from Michiganders who are frustrated by a Congress that never seems to get anything done. And while this institution is certainly broken in a lot of ways, there are still a number of us – Republican and Democrat – that came to Washington determined to deliver for the folks back home and who are committed to rolling up our sleeves and doing the work without taking shortcuts.
That sort of work is how the Solid Start Act was passed into law, and I will continue to do things the way I know Michiganders expect me to.
– Rep. Elissa Slotkin
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 27, 2022
ICYMI: Gov. Whitmer Applauds New Investment in School Buses, Saving Michigan Schools More Than $54 Million
U.S Environmental Protection Agency announced competitive awards to 25 school districts, investing $54.06 million to help school districts buy clean buses, help dollars flow back into the classroom
LANSING, Mich. — Governor Gretchen Whitmer is applauding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement of the winners of the 2022 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) Clean School Bus Rebates. In total, 25 Michigan school districts will receive over $54 million in rebates to help transition 138 school buses to electric buses. This investment will save districts money and help dollars flow back into the classroom while increasing air quality, enhancing the electric grid, and fighting climate change.
“These grants will help Michigan buy and use clean school buses to take kids to school safely and keep the air in and around our schools cleaner, all while powering our economic growth,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “The EPA’s Clean Bus Program will help us upgrade our school bus fleets and build on work being done across the mobility industry to switch to electric. In Michigan we will continue taking action to meet the goals of the MI Healthy Climate Plan I unveiled earlier this year that will lower costs, create jobs, and protect public health while putting us on a clean energy path to carbon neutrality. Let’s keep working together to fund innovative clean energy solutions while prioritizing the health and safety of our kids and communities.”
Please read more from MLive: Michigan to get 138 new electric school buses with $50M in federal cash – mlive.com
Vice President Kamala Harris and EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced the first round of federal funding for the “clean” school bus program in Seattle on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022.
Harris said as many as 25 million schoolchildren ride school buses each day in the “largest form of mass transit in our country.” All but 5% of those buses are run on diesel and emit harmful carbon emissions, she said.
Regan said this national “clean” bus program starts the work to build a healthier future, reduce climate pollution, and ensure the clean, breathable air that “all our children deserve.”
Regular, diesel-powered school buses “spew carcinogenic and climate-warming pollution into the air our kids breathe,” said Molly Rauch, public health policy director for nonprofit Moms Clean Air Force.
“It simply doesn’t make sense to send our kids to school on buses that create brain-harming, lung-harming, cancer-causing, climate-harming pollution. Our kids, our bus drivers, and our communities deserve better,” she said.
School districts that will receive funding, include:
This federal investment builds on Michigan’s successful Fuel Transformation Program that provided $30 million to help school districts purchase 17 electric school buses and over 300 buses powered by clean fuels.
For more information about the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/
Commissioner Kristen Nelson leads effort to secure $8.5 million to support Older Adults in Oakland County
- $5 million grant targets improvements in senior centers for lasting impact.
- Application Opens Monday, Oct. 31 and Closes Dec. 9.
Pontiac, Michigan – As the chair of the Healthy Aging Ad Hoc Committee, Commissioner Kristen Nelson (D-Waterford Twp.) secured funding for local senior centers and nonprofit organizations that provide senior centered services. Applications for the Senior Centers Grant Program will open on Monday, Oct. 31. The grants will award up to $250,000 in matching funds. Grant applications close Dec. 9.
“Our senior community centers play a vital role for older adults, offering opportunities for socialization, nutrition, recreation, and education,” said Commissioner Kristen Nelson (D-Waterford Twp.). This grant opportunity will greatly assist senior centers in growing their capacity to meet identified community needs, including access to computers, internet and training, professional development, and infrastructure improvement projects.”
“Using CARES Act funds in 2020, we reimbursed senior centers for pandemic related expenses, but with these funds we are making future-focused investments to improve the quality of life of our older residents,” said County Executive David Coulter. “We are pleased to work collaboratively with Commissioner Nelson and the Board of Commissioners on this important program.”
Utilizing American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, the grants will pay for senior center improvements such as capital, technology, infrastructure, and equipment improvements or professional development. The Senior Centers Grant Program is part of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners’ $8.5 million for Oakland Together Seniors Initiative which was unanimously approved on September 1. Additional programs are focused on improving communication with older residents, reinstating the Elderly Abuse Prevention Coalition, supporting volunteers at senior-focused non-profit organizations, and making improvements to the Senior Chore program which provides critical assistance to allow seniors to stay in their homes.
Senior centers and nonprofit organizations must be located in Oakland County to qualify for the Senior Centers Grant Program. Matching funds may include in-kind, past, current, or future investment in senior centers, recreational facilities for senior activities, or other investments providing long-term benefits to senior residents.
Project applications must include:
- Eligibility under the United States Treasury guidelines for ARPA funding
- An account of how the proposal will use the Senior Centers Grant Program funding to make long-term improvements for senior residents in each community, including an implementation plan and timeline for grant funding
- A description of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and how that impacted plans under this grant
Informational virtual meetings for Senior Centers Grant Program are scheduled for Nov. 14 and 28. Grants are due to the county on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. Recipients will receive notification letters in mid-January. The Board of Commissioners will distribute the funds in early February. Grantees must utilize the Senior Centers Grant Program funds by Dec. 31, 2026.
To learn more about the grant, go to OakGov.com/SeniorCenterGrant. Applications may be submitted online at this address starting on Oct. 31.