Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Peter Rogoff visited Rapid Central Station on Thursday, October 18 to sign a Project Construction Grant Agreement (PCGA) that marks the final step towards making Bus Rapid Transit in metropolitan Grand Rapids a reality.
Administrator Rogoff was joined by Michigan's Leiutenant Governor Brian Calley, Rapid Board of Directors Chairwoman Barb Holt (Mayor Pro Tem - Walker), Kentwood Mayor Richard Clanton, Wyoming Mayor Jock Poll, Division Avenue Business Association President Tom Brann, and Rapid CEO Peter Varga.
Rogoff noted that "some 30,000 jobs in the central business district will be within one quarter mile of the new bus rapid transit system. It's going to be great access, and it's going to bus rapid transit done right."
The completion of the Project Construction Grant Agreement allows the full federal funding to be awarded for the project, in the amount of $31,885,617. The state of Michigan is also providing a 20% match, totaling $7,971,405. This total of approximately $39.8 million will be used strictly for capital costs, including the construction of BRT stations and the purchase of BRT vehicles. The allocation of this federal and state funding was made possible by the passage of the local public transportation millage in May of 2011. By demonstrating the local willingness to fund the operations of the BRT line, the community was able to win these competitive federal funds that different cities apply for across the country.
By utilizing dedicated lanes at rush hour, express boarding, and traffic signal priority, the BRT service will deliver commuters from 60th Street to the Medical Mile in less than 30 minutes. This travel time mimics the speed of light rail at approximately 1/10 of the cost.
This project has been in the works for nearly 10 years, and this final approval from the FTA marks a great collaborative success for the regional transit authority. This will be the first BRT line in Michigan, and as the Lt. Governor stated, it will help move the conversation about regional transit in the Detroit area forward: "What I'm very excited about, though, is the example this sets for the southeast side of the state." He went on to discuss the importance of The Rapid as an economic driver, "It's all about the connectivity of resources in Michigan. With the transit system, we're talking about connecting the most important resource which is the talent of our people, to the employers that require that talent."
Mayor Poll and Mayor Clanton made remarks praising the project for the direct benefit the BRT line will have for their communities, and also emphasized the larger benefit to the entire service area and region. "We are very excited in the city of Wyoming to be a part of this," said Mayor Poll, "we truly believe that public transit is the catalyst that brings progress into our cities."
Bus Rapid Transit projects around the nation have boosted property values and spurred economic development in new and existing corridors, and as the Division Avenue project proceeds, the new transit infrastructure will support the revitalization that is already underway in the area.
The Division Avenue BRT project will begin construction in April of 2013, and will be open for service in mid to late 2014.