BRT project takes the next step

September 28, 2008
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The Interurban Transit Partnership board approved the next major step in the bus rapid transit project Wednesday, giving The Rapid staff the go-ahead to negotiate a contract amendment with DJM Harris to do the environmental work for the project, a step required by federal statute.

The cost of the additional work is $197,920. Board member Rob Ver Heulen asked why the environmental work wasn’t negotiated in the original contract inked in January 2003 with DMJM Harris, which was hired to undertake a major corridor study.

Peter Varga, CEO of The Rapid, said the environmental process was not covered in the contract because, at that time, The Rapid wasn’t certain it would get New Starts funding from the Federal Transit Administration for the project. He said the FTA advised The Rapid at the time it issued a request for proposal that if its project was granted funding, it should have the same consultant do the environmental work. Varga also noted that The Rapid would lose time if it seeks bids on the environmental process rather than stick with DMJM Harris. 

“Time is of the essence here because the sooner we can get this environmental process done, the sooner we can enter into a project construction agreement,” Varga said

The BRT line will run along Division from 60th Street north to Wealthy Street, through downtown to Michigan Street, and then to Central Station. The corridor runs through Grand Rapids, Wyoming and Kentwood. All in all, the route will be just under 10 miles, with 19 station stops and 10-minute service frequency during peak hours. The route will have a dedicated traffic lane and will use hybrid electric busses that have secondary signal preemption, which means traffic lights will automatically adjust to longer green lights and shorter red lights.

Many civic leaders believe the route will be a catalyst for new jobs and investment in the corridor, and that the 19 station stops will be “sweet spots” for development. Thus far, only one station location has been recommended: at Jefferson Avenue on Saint Mary’s Health Care property.

“We will be holding charrettes through the auspices of Grand Valley Metro Council and holding meetings with other cities to talk about some of the other potential station locations,” Varga said.

The total cost of the BRT line is estimated at slightly more than $40 million, of which the state would need to provide a total capital match of 20 percent, or $8.02 million over a four-year period. Varga said the match has been assured by the state.

“We are counting on the fact that as we need state match money over the next four years, it will be made available,” he said.

Varga also noted that the Transportation Funding Task Force is holding its sixth meeting today at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. The task force was appointed by Gov. Granholm earlier this year to review the adequacy of surface transportation, the aeronautics service provision and finance in Michigan, including strategies to ensure that Michigan receives a greater financial return. Varga is a member of the task force, and Kent County Aeronautics Director James Koslosky serves on the task force’s citizens’ advisory committee. The task force expects to publish its preliminary findings Oct. 31.

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