follow me on Twitter

    Mar 7, 2008

    Repair roads, expand transit

    An opportunity is presenting itself to area residents. It all starts with a road to ruin.

    Grand Rapids has third world streets, quips Mayor Heartwell in a news article from The Press. Hyperbole? Ah, may be not if you see the damage. The local media has stories running all week featuring metro's crumbling roads and damaged vehicles. Local road commissions and municipalities even have hot lines set up to phone in complaints. The amount of complaints to officials has increased nearly four times over the same time last year. That number is just from complaints only, no telling how many other less traveled roads go unreported. This infrastructure disaster has been chalked up to inadequate funding, surface temperatures and repair techniques.

    According to TRIP, substandard roads in Grand Rapids costs local motorists, $1,085 annually. TRIP, is a national transportation nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C. In the same study, Grand Rapids had the highest share of substandard roadways in Michigan's three major urban centers. Repairing roads and expanding transit together seems right considering the economic opportunity and quality of life issues.

    Over on the transit side, The area is looking at expanding transit, but there are many obstacles. While all this is going on, the local metro planning organization may be asked to study the need for county wide transit. This important move has the ability to expand existing transit into the far suburbs and allow mobility for commuters into downtown. There is no mistake that transit reduces congestion on city streets and expressways. If The Rapid did not provide the community with its services, area commuters would be experiencing 20 minutes more in their rush hour commutes.

    So what's with this road post? Aside from buses running on streets, there may be no other reason to write up about road conditions. However, there is one commonality these two share. With municipalities pressured to do with less you can guess what circumstance they both share -- adequate funding. It has been such a dire situation that Michigan has commissioned a task force to resolve this issue.

    Expand transit, repair roads.

    It seems advantageous that these two important infrastructures share a common problem. The question is, how on earth does the metro area adequately fund transit and roadways? One plausible solution is also currently against Michigan law.

    In 2006, Michigan Legislators Gilda Jacobs and Liz Brater proposed a resolution that would authorize a sales tax at the county level. The bill was explicit in using funds for local rapid transit and road improvements. This measure would allow area citizens the right to choose. Think of a 1% sales tax levied by the metro counties to pay for road improvements and expanding transit. Funds would have been divided evenly at .5% going toward rapid transit and fixing existing roads. This sales tax could net the Kent county road commission and ITP both $40 million annually.

    The resolution died.

    With the deteriorating infrastructure and importance of expanding transit, there should be a renewed interest in this resolution. Why should solutions for improved roads and transit remain mutually exclusive funding priorities? Locally obtained tax dollars for county road commissions and The Rapid means money goes strictly to local improvement projects and isn't appropriated elsewhere in the state.

    So what is it? Continue to wait for the State of Michigan and their funding disparities, or an alternative local answer?

    Send comments below or email: railtransitgr@gmail.com


    No comments: