Grand Rapids appoints task force to identify solutions for city's street crisis

The Grand Rapids City Commission has appointed a Sustainable Streets Task Force to identify solutions for what a city press release identifies as "the City's street crisis."

The city reports that its general operating fund will run out of money for streets in fiscal year 2014. The Sustainable Streets Task Force's recommendations will guide the city's Transformation Investment Plan in development of investment recommendations in the face of drastically reduced funding that will cover the cost of work on main thoroughfares only unless other funding sources or budget realignments are identified.

The task force consists of some 40 business and community leaders, including three city commissioners, many of whom participated in the 21st Century Infrastructure Task Force a decade ago.

"The hope is that they will be able to provide multiple recommendations to the city commission that cover everything from level of service, the quality of our streets and benchmarks for quality, and also funding ideas to support that level of quality," says Planning Director Suzanne Schulz.

"It's not a good situation to be in, and one we don't want to be in, but the state has cut $100 million in tax revenue sharing, and we're trying to support police and fire services, street lighting; it's been a really tough policy decision," Schulz says. "The general fund should be putting in $3 million to $4 million for streets. It put in $3 million last year, is putting in about $1.5 million this year, and will go down to zero [for streets] in 2014."

Schulz says a couple of big concerns are that the general fund money has been used in the past as matching grant funding to leverage grants, and that the project to separate the storm and sanitary sewers, which provided funding for some new streets in conjunction with that work, is drawing to a close.

The task force will meet twice a month and will make a state of the streets presentation to the city commission on May 15. Community meetings in May and June will provide information to the public. Over the summer, the task force will investigate alternatives and possible solutions and will take the information to the community for ideas and feedback in the fall, followed by a final presentation to the City Commission by December.

Editor's Note: A few days after completing the interview for this article, reporter Deborah Johnson Wood received and accepted an invitation to sit on the Sustainable Streets Task Force.

Source: Suzanne Schulz, City of Grand Rapids Planning Department
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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