Economic Development, Government, and Travel & Tourism

Metro Council is netting transportation dollars

Final tally reaches $274M in two-plus years.

February 15, 2013
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Grand Valley Metro Council Transportation Director Abed Itani said the agency has been able to get a good share of transportation funding over the last two-plus fiscal years.

Itani said the council received $77 million in federal and state funds in FY11 for 139 projects in the metro planning area GVMC serves. In FY12, he said the funding reached $101 million for 141 improvement projects. And since October, the start of the agency’s current fiscal year, Itani said the council has captured $96 million that will go to 105 projects. So over the last two-and-a-quarter fiscal years, GVMC has received $274 million in funding for 385 projects.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has designated $97 million of that total to the council over that timeframe, including $26 million so far this fiscal year. Another $85 million has gone for transit projects by the Interurban Transit Partnership.

“That’s what your fees to the Metro Council leads to — about $100 million in transportation revenue each year,” said John Weiss, GVMC executive director, to board members.

Weiss added that every board member has an opportunity to get a project on the council’s to-do list. “It’s a really democratic process that everybody takes part in. But you need to be present to win,” he said.

The council has been working on a four-year transportation plan that would run from 2014 through 2017. The fiscal goal is to raise $13 million in local funds, which is expected to leverage $42 million from the federal government.

“Of course, millions more project dollars were requested by the communities, but by working together, the group was able to prioritize the most critical projects for our region,” said Weiss. “There are future meetings scheduled, which will appropriate other federal, state and local dollars.”

Gayle McCrath, GVMC’s director of human resources and administration, said attendance at and revenue from the council’s quarterly luncheon meetings both rose dramatically beginning last April, when former Meijer Inc. President Mark Murray was the guest speaker. Attendance more than doubled from the luncheon a year earlier, with 104 on hand to hear Murray speak. Revenue from Murray’s appearance was $2,288. The previous April luncheon drew 54 and produced $1,242 in revenue.

In July, Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley drew 173 to the luncheon, up from 54 attendees in July 2011. GVMC collected $6,325 in revenue from Calley’s appearance, easily topping the $1,188 the council netted the previous year.

For FY12, the council took in nearly $9,000 from its four quarterly luncheons. That figure was $4,454 in FY11. “We weren’t meeting our expenses then,” said McCrath.

Some of the luncheon revenue comes from event sponsors like Meijer Inc. and Consumers Energy.

GVMC began the current fiscal year with Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette speaking in October. U.S. Congressman Bill Huizenga is next. He is set to appear March 11 at Calvin College’s Prince Conference Center. Tickets are $25, which includes lunch. Seats and tables can be reserved by contacting McCrath, who said the attendance figure is already at 80.

Lake Michigan Credit Union is sponsoring Huizenga’s appearance.

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