Transportation costs pegged at 4 billion

March 20, 2011
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Grand Valley Metro Council Executive Director Don Stypula said the long-range transportation plan is one of the most important tasks of the agency, and board members approved the document that lays out the projected projects and costs for Kent and a portion of Ottawa counties through 2035.

GVMC Transportation Director Abed Itani said a 30-year outlook has to be done every four years and every major project has to be in the plan to receive federal funding. “But we decided to include every project that we have plans for,” he said. The plan covers 1,015 square miles in the two counties, which includes 1,564 miles of federal trunkline roads and 268 miles of state roads.

Itani said the plan estimates that $4.08 billion will be needed over those years to complete the projects in the plan, with 59 percent or $2.4 billion of that money projected to come from the state.

“It might change because the figures are based on 2011 federal figures,” he said, while adding that the Federal Highway Administration told him it agreed with his estimate.

Some highlights of the projected 25-year costs include:

  • The cost of unfunded projects ranges from $1.3 billion to $3 billion. “So roughly there is a $3 billion shortfall in the long-range plan,” said Itani.

  • The cost for non-motorized projects ranges from $77.9 million to $95 million.

  • The cost for transit totals $1.8 billion, which was compiled by the Interurban Transit Partnership. Itani said $1.6 billion was accounted for, which leaves a $200 million shortfall.

  • The cost for safety needs is $62.3 million. Itani said the most car-deer crashes in the state occur in Kent County, and in the metro area a driver hits either a pedestrian or a bicyclist an average of once a day.

  • The cost to battle traffic congestion is $163 million.

  • The cost to maintain road pavement is $641.6 million. Itani said about 35 percent of the region’s pavement is in poor condition, and that will jump to 58 percent in 2035 without proper maintenance. Currently, the region gets about $11 million a year for maintenance, but Itani said $21 million is needed. “I can assure you the system is going to deteriorate, and you’re going to notice it,” he said.

When asked if there was a solution to getting the needed funds, Itani said, “The only thing we can do is to look at the money we get and prioritize our needs.” He added that maintenance costs have been cut over the years. Instead of resurfacing roads, Itani said micro-patching is being done.

Itani was asked about the one change regarding transportation that he wanted to come from the state capital. “To me, they’re not the problem. They understand our needs and issues. I think the problem is on the federal level,” he said. Then he explained that Washington, D.C., issues too many unfunded transportation mandates.

The plan is posted on the council’s website at www.gvmc.org.

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