Grand Rapids streets: 371 miles in poor condition

11:59 PM, Jan 18, 2014   |    comments
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Sustainable Streets Task Force Report shows the road Grand Rapids' streets are headed down

GRAND RAPIDS, (WZZM) -- Governor Rick Snyder renewed his call for more than $1 billion dollars of extra annual spending on the state's roads at his State of the State address Thursday night. 

"We do need to invest more in our roads. I think we're seeing that. We've entered pothole season folks."

But Snyder promised money last year, and cities like Grand Rapids got nothing.

This year, Grand Rapids can't wait around.

Cities need that $1 billion because their biggest funding source has been dying off for a decade: state tax revenue. Now Mayor George Heartwell had to ask his own taxpayers in his State of the City address to help save 371 miles of deteriorating streets.

Mayor Heartwell is putting his foot on the gas.

"One year has passed since Governor Snyder proposed a reasonable solution to this problem. It's time - past time - for the legislature to act. In the meantime, we have to take matters into our own hands," he said January 11th at his State of the City speech.

The city streets speak for themselves, but a task force's research shows just how bad they are.

In Grand Rapids, 63 percent of local, neighborhood streets are in poor condition, 69 percent of major federal streets are in poor condition, and 62 percent of other streets are in the same boat, says deputy city manager, Eric Delong.

Delong says without repairs and maintenance starting next summer, in just five years the city will be in 87 percent poor condition.

"So it's a daunting condition we find ourselves in," he said.

He says some current fixes are very temporary.

"It could last anywhere from 24 hours to depending on when we do it days or years," he said.

But here's the city's preferred fix. A higher-quality seal. And for $1 million, crews can patch 436 miles.

"Versus one mile for $1 million for reconstruction," he said.

But that's the road Grand Rapids is headed unless taxpayers agree to a 15-year extension of a tax they already pay. It's used to transform government. Now it would transform streets, sidewalks, and business districts.  

"So for no more money, you get good streets," he said.

The tax would bring in $9 million towards the $22 million dollar annual goal. The city already has $6.5 million annually on hand. But Grand Rapids does still need $6 million from the state to make this work.

"We don't need all the money at once," said DeLong. "So if we get the state money a little later, that will be ok."

But DeLong says road would start next summer. The goal: Get the streets 70% in good repair by 2030.

DeLong says maintenance on the good streets would start in summer 2015 if the proposal passes. Heavy construction wouldn't start until year six.

"People would see improvements right away," he said.

There's another benefit to taxpayers under this proposal. The city would take the responsibility of maintaining your sidewalks. They wouldn't shovel of course, but crews would fix crumbling areas where tree roots have pushed up through the surface, for example.

"So for paying what you're currently paying you get good streets, and you get no more responsibility for your sidewalks," he said.

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