GVMC OKs Smart Traffic Study

December 10, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Members of the Grand Valley Metro Council hope that in a little more than two years, construction of an Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) for metro Grand Rapids will be well underway.

By then they should have the results of a two-year ITS study that will get started next year and cost $350,000. Members unanimously approved an agreement with HNTB Inc., an architectural, engineering and urban planning company headquartered in Kansas City.

“Finally, the development of a plan for ITS,” said a jubilant Don Stypula, executive director of the Metro Council.

The Michigan Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration are funding the study. MDOT has committed $300,000 toward it, while the FHA is putting up the remaining $50,000.

Stypula said the study would help design, implement and build the system, which will have changeable message signs, traveler information radio, incident management and a few other timely tools.

“The goal of the study is to identify means to improve travel in the area without widening roads,” said Jim Snell, GVMC senior transportation planner.

HNTB beat out five other consultants to win the contract. The company has offices in Detroit and Lansing and has worked on a wide variety of projects including highways, bridges, Oldsmobile Park in Lansing, and the Breslin Center at Michigan State University.

HNTB has also done work for the Kent County Road Commission.

In another transportation item, Metro Council members approved a marketing, public relations and promotional services agreement for Amtrak’s Pere Marquette passenger rail line that runs daily from Grand Rapids to Chicago and back.

Sharp Marketing of Grand Rapids won the contract, which is worth $112,000 for next year. State funds will pay for 90 percent of that cost. The remaining amount will be raised from members of the West Michigan Passenger Rail Collaborative (WESTRAIN), which is based in Grand Rapids and has members in Holland, St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, Bangor and New Buffalo — cities on the Pere Marquette line.

The Metro Council has an agreement with MDOT to oversee the rail service run by Amtrak.

Stypula said selecting a consultant for the ITS study was exhaustive. The Metro Council formed a six-member committee for the effort, which met with a number of consultants before finally settling on HNTB.

Represented on the committee were MDOT, the county road commission, the city of Grand Rapids, the Interurban Transit Partnership, the highway administration and GVMC.

Stypula added it would cost about $13 million to build an ITS, starting in 2007, to cover the metro area. Most of that money is expected to come from the federal government.

“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said Stypula.    

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