Someday, these materials could be widely used to extend the lifespan of Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges.

Today, they’re emerging in labs and being tested in the real world to see how they hold up to the state’s frigid winters and heavy traffic. Bridge is offering you a quickie guide to promising innovations, including testing taking place at major Michigan research universities.

The desire to prolong the life of Michigan’s roads comes as Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration tries to drum up support for a $2.5 billion road-funding plan that is promised to get 90 percent of roads into good or fair condition by 2029. Republican legislative leaders have so far rejected Whitmer’s proposal — centered on a 45-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase phased in over a year — but have not yet unveiled an alternative plan for raising the money needed.

Separately from funding talks, the Michigan Department of Transportation has invested years of research on building longer-lasting roads and bridges and improving traffic safety.Michigan spent $5.5 million of mostly federal funds on research in 2018. Up to 60 research projects are ongoing at any given time, said Carol Aldrich, MDOT’s engineer of research.

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