Construction and Government

State funds jumpstart road work

State’s $2.1 million will speed up GR’s overdue street repair.

July 11, 2014
| By Pete Daly |
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Contracts are expected to be awarded next week for work on two Grand Rapids streets funded by a one-time state appropriation of $2,124,850, although grateful city officials warn there is still no long-term solution to funding Michigan transportation infrastructure.

Grand Rapids’ appropriation is part of $115 million approved in early March by the Michigan House and Senate for special projects around the state.

Grand Rapids City Hall announced in early July it will use the state funds for rotomilling, resurfacing and signal improvements along Michigan Street from Barclay to Lafayette avenues and Eastern to Fuller avenues, and on Bridge Street from Lake Michigan Drive to Mt. Mercy Drive and Valley to Summer avenues. 

“We are very pleased with this commitment by the legislature to the second largest city in the state and we will make sure this investment is put to good use immediately,” said Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong.

He added it will “accelerate Grand Rapids’ vital streets efforts and will supplement $17 million of advance investment in our streets that has been approved by the City Commission.”

As a result of voters’ May 6 approval of extending the Grand Rapids temporary income tax increase for another 15 years, the city plans to sell $17 million worth of bonds early this fall for years of street repair and reconstruction.

“While the additional investment through one-time funding for special road projects is welcome, a long-term solution for road funding on the state level is required to ensure sustainable street infrastructure and get us to 70 percent good-to-fair streets by 2030,” said DeLong.

“This is good news for Grand Rapids’ residents and businesses,” said Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell. 

“Investment in local road infrastructure is critical for continual economic recovery of our urban centers. I am grateful to Sen. (David) Hildenbrand, Rep. (Brandon) Dillon, and Rep. (Winnie) Brinks for their support for Grand Rapids’ projects. Rep. (Rob) VerHeulen deserves our thanks, as well, for his insightful shepherding of this process through the Legislature. The support of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and MDOT is very much appreciated, too.”

Josh Lunger, public policy coordinator at GRACC, said the appropriation shows that the Legislature recognizes the need to repair Michigan roads.

“Obviously, it’s a very critical investment for our community, but our goal here is to continue to focus on the long-term solutions,” said Lunger.

Heartwell said road conditions in Michigan have gone from bad to worse. 

“This is a one-time fix and we all know much more must be done. It is critical that after the Senate and House return from summer vacation, they work with the administration to find a comprehensive long-term investment solution for roads in Michigan,” said Heartwell.

Gov. Rick Snyder and MDOT have stated that $1.4 billion per year is required to fix Michigan’s roads, with the $115 million one-time appropriation equal to about 7 percent of what is needed statewide each year.

The Grand Rapids Sustainable Streets Task Force organized by City Hall a couple of years ago determined a total investment in the city’s streets of $22 million per year is needed over the next 15 years. To reach that goal, an additional $9 million annually in new local investment and $6 million in state investment in roads is needed each year. 

The May 6 ballot in Grand Rapids was overwhelmingly approved by the city’s residents and included a two-part proposal asking voters to continue a set-to-expire income-tax increase for another 15 years while also amending the city charter so that city government — not individual property owners — will now be responsible for sidewalk repairs and reconstruction. 

The income tax increase is expected to generate an estimated $9.9 million per year to fund “vital” streets and sidewalks in Grand Rapids.

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