Dont Throw Transit Plan Under The Bus

February 6, 2006
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Public transportation improvements in the Grand Rapids metro region have overwhelming support from a multitude of nonprofit groups, community leaders and residents who have created partnerships to further the lofty goal of service expansion throughout the area. Lofty goal? It is so because the governor, with the aid of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, makes a mockery of the regional toil spent in creating such a plan.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm vetoed a mass-transit bill introduced by State Rep. Jerry Kooiman, which provided some state match of transportation dollars to secure the federal money earmarked for the type of project planned by The Rapid (fixed route busing, light rail etc). During an appearance on the WGVU-GVK telecast of "West Michigan Week," the governor said she vetoed the bill because it did not include the "two to three other cities" that might also be able to leverage such funding, and "it's just not right" to allow Kent County alone to benefit. Some might ask how that is any different from the multitude of special Detroit or WayneCounty projects given tax dollars at the expense of "out-staters," but the fact is the governor is either twisting the truth or conveniently misinformed. The fact is that the GrandValley plan is the only system in Michigan designated by the federal transit authority under its New Start Fixed Guideway Program for such funding.

The fact is that SEMCOG and Detroit officials wish they were designated and hope to be in such a position within five years, even while those governmental agencies continue to fight among themselves, not wanting to see more funding dropped into a black hole controlled in any part by Detroit city officials.

KentCounty should wait for that miracle? We think not.

Granholm's further disavowing of any influence on Michigan Department of Transportation funding is further fallacy. MDOT's disregard for West Michigan road needs — over the next five years — includes dropping the extension of U.S. 131 and a project along I-196 at the Beltline.

Granholm said, while in Grand Rapids, that "engineers" make those decisions. In fact those decisions are made by the Michigan Transportation Commission. Granholm last month appointed six new members to that group; four are from the Detroit metro area, one from the Upper Peninsula and one from the Grand Rapids area.

Legislators from across the state should put Granholm's feet to the fire for the outrageous twists of the truth, as should voters in West Michigan

Kooiman has reintroduced the legislation to secure the state funds needed to match the federal funding. It was not long ago that Granholm was featured in live broadcasts testifying to federal transportation officials in regard to Michigan's "negative" return of federal transportation money, and her vow to get a return on what Michigan sends in federal dollars to Washington. Evidently, this part of the mitten isn't imprinted on her map.

The partners creating the regional transportation plan "Getting There Together" are commended for the work, and urged to deliver it to the governor en masse.    

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