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Michigan seeks private-sector partners for rest stop, road and bridge projects

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Friday, July 26, 2013 - 12:01 am

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Transportation put feelers out Thursday to companies looking to form public-private partnerships involving rest stops, freeway lighting, bridge construction and timber management.

The two rest areas proposed for possible deals are near Higgins and Houghton lakes along U.S. 127 south of Grayling, a popular route for tourists. Ideas to improve the rest stops could include opening restaurants and buying advertising space and naming rights, the state said. If successful, Michigan may look to make money at rest stops on U.S. 131 in west Michigan and U.S. 23 in the southeastern part of the state.

Under federal law, Michigan can't commercialize rest areas along federal interstates.

“This is an information-gathering stage, the first step to starting a conversation about what's possible in financing and building infrastructure,” state Transportation director Kirk Steudle said in a statement.

The state also is gauging companies' interest in controlling highway lighting, doing some bridge work and thinning out forests along four state and federal freeways.

Lighting privatization proposals could cover either all 18,400 lights on state highways or freeway lighting in metropolitan Detroit. Tunnel lighting just along Interstate 696 in Oakland County and under Detroit's Cobo Center is another option.

The state also wants to see if there's private-sector interest in securing long-term contracts to finance, design, construct and maintain bridges over Interstate 75 in Detroit and Oakland County and along Interstate 94 in Detroit and Jackson and Berrien counties.

Other potential projects include logging highway forest areas — 128 miles of U.S. 2 in the Upper Peninsula; 134 miles of I-75 in the northern Lower Peninsula; 78 miles of U.S. 127 in Clare, Gratiot and Isabella counties; and 51 miles of U.S. 131 in Kent, Mecosta and Montcalm counties.