Economic Development, Government, and Travel & Tourism

GVSU-to-downtown bus line picks up $57M from feds

February 10, 2016
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Silver Line
The Rapid CEO Peter Varga, shown here with a new Silver Line bus, is planning the creation of a second bus rapid transit, or BRT, line that runs east and west. Photo by Johnny Quirin

A transportation project planned for Grand Rapids has received $57 million from the federal government.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced today that President Barack Obama’s 2017 budget includes $57 million for construction of the Grand Rapids Laker Line Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT.

The project is one of 31 transportation projects in 18 states recommended to receive a share of $3.5 billion in federal funding through the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant Program.

“We are very pleased that the Laker Line is included in the president’s FY17 budget,” said Peter Varga, CEO of The Rapid.

The 13.3-mile Laker Line BRT system will provide service between downtown Grand Rapids and Grand Valley State University’s Allendale campus.

The total capital cost for the project, which includes articulated buses, stations and a storage and maintenance facility for the buses, is $71,014,000.

Federal government funds will cover 80 percent of the cost, or $56,811,200, and the state will cover 20 percent of the cost, or $14,202,800.

GVSU will provide operating funding for the line once it opens.

The BRT line is expected to improve access to jobs and schools as well as have a significant economic impact on the West Michigan economy.

It is also expected to serve as a catalyst to support plans for higher-density mixed-use and walkable development, including increased student and senior housing and fit with a growing regional emphasis on multimodal transit options.

Varga said the Laker Line was one of only three projects to receive the highest rating given in the process for receiving the funds, specifically in terms of the project’s “cost-effectiveness” and “environmental benefits.”

The Rapid began operating its first BRT line, the Silver Line, along Division Avenue a year and a half ago.

“The Rapid has shown its ability to develop and operate successful BRT service and demonstrate the return on investment the Federal Transit Administration expects when considering new projects,” Varga said.

He said other contributing factors to receiving federal funding include strong community support, the partnership with GVSU and commitment from the Michigan Transportation Department for the project.

“The commitment from the Michigan Department of Transportation to provide the capital funding match needed to secure the grant was instrumental in the project being approved,” Varga said.

“These projects transform communities, improving mobility and access to jobs, education and other important opportunities for millions of residents,” Foxx said. “Public transit is an important ally in the effort to ensure that hard-working Americans are offered a chance to succeed in the 21st century economy.”

FTA’s highly competitive CIG Program is the federal government’s primary grant program for funding major transit capital investments that are locally planned, implemented and operated.

It provides funding for investments such as new and expanded heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, bus rapid transit and streetcar projects.

The program includes funding for three categories of eligible projects, as defined by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act: New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity.

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