Council Passes Transportation Plan

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    GRAND RAPIDS — The Grand Valley Metro Council recently approved its long-range transportation plan, a lengthy wish list of road, transit and enhancement projects the regional planning agency would like to see happen over the next three decades or so.

    At the same time, board members threw their support behind the GT2 Corridor Study that was conducted by the Interurban Transit Partnership.

    The Metro Council’s 2035 plan includes almost $6 billion worth of road, public transit, passenger and freight aviation, non-motorized and rail projects. Fifty-three percent, or $3.2 billion, of the revenue to complete those projects is expected to come from the federal government.

    The Federal Highway Administration requires planning agencies like the Metro Council to file a study with the agency every four years. The report has to be multi-modal and financially constrained, and all projects must meet U.S. air-quality standards.

    “We covered almost everybody. We wanted the plan to be inclusive,” said Abed Itani, GVMC transportation director. “No plan, no federal funds.”

    The projects contained in the long-range plan are listed in the council’s Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP sheet, each year. But projects in the long-range plan aren’t written in concrete, as TIP amendments can be made.

    “It’s a dynamic process. Three years from now we might see some projects moved around,” said Itani. “It’s difficult to predict which roads you’re going to repair in 15 years.”

    The TIP projects are for the urban-metro area, as rural areas receive different federal funding. Itani said the Metro Council wouldn’t receive any more dollars if the agency widened the TIP area to include rural settings. The FHA bases its current Metro Council funding on the urban area’s 2000 U.S. Census Bureau figure of 527,000.

    “I think there is enough need in the urbanized areas to consume all those funds,” said Itani.

    The ITP GT2 Corridor plan is known to the Federal Transportation Agency as a Very Small Starts Program. It consists of running higher-speed buses from

    60th Street

    to

    Monroe Avenue

    via

    Division Avenue

    and back, designed as a commuter line for downtown workers and students who live in Gaines and Byron townships, Kentwood and Wyoming.

    Jim Fetzer of ITP said the public transit company started reviewing a dozen potential corridors five years ago and ultimately settled on the Division route.

    “It boiled down to the corridor with the most chance for success,” he said.

    ITP has projected the route will carry up to 3,400 commuters daily. There will be 19 stops on the route, but the biggest station will be built at the route’s southern origination point:

    Division Avenue

    and

    60th Street

    “Keep your eye on land use there if this goes through,” said Fetzer.

    At least half of the corridor on the 10-mile run needs to have a dedicated commuter lane for both the in- and outbound rides. ITP plans to use eight buses and provide service 14 hours per day. Buses will run every 10 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes during non-peak times. ITP has projected the project’s cost at $33.6 million, with half of those dollars coming from FTA.

    “We think it will pretty much sell itself,” said Kentwood Mayor Richard Root. “I think it’s going to lead to a lot of tremendous things.”

    So does Wyoming Mayor Carol Sheets, who said the route and its stations will offer enough incentives for businesses that

    Division Avenue

    could return to the booming economic activity it had in its heyday 40 years ago.

    “We have business people just drooling over this and waiting for it to happen,” said Sheets, who chaired the GT2 committee.

    But Gaines Township Supervisor Don Hilton wasn’t that excited about the route. He felt the corridor could easily have added another stop on its southern end.

    “I’m very disappointed it’s not going to

    68th Street

    ,” he said. “I’d again like to make the pitch to include

    68th Street

    .”

    Fetzer said ITP’s corridor application has to reach the FTA by June. He said he thought 2009 was the earliest it would be funded, and 2010 would be the earliest it could be running.

    Plenty Of Road Work Next Year

    GRAND RAPIDS — More than $90 million worth of road projects are on the front pages of Grand Valley Metro Council’s new, long-range transportation plan. The list includes 2008 pavement projects and all capacity improvements in the plan.

    City/Agency      

    Number of
    Projects

          

    Federal/State
    Amount

    Kent County Road Commission33$27,943,400
    City of Grand Rapids19$14,404,093
    Ottawa County Road Commission13$25,735,300
    City of Wyoming13$10,108,500
    City of Kentwood$6,364,650
    City of Walker$5,020,000
    City of Grandville$965,125
    City of East Grand Rapids$130,165
    Total96$90,671,233

    Source: GrandValley Metro Council 2035 LongRange Plan, April 2007

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