GRAND RAPIDS — The long-planned and long awaited Division Ave bus rapid transit (BRT) project is moving forward. Federal, state and local officials gathered this morning at The Rapid Central Station to sign a project construction grant agreement that puts $39 million of state and federal dollars to work. Nearly $32 million will come from the federal government, representing roughly 80 percent of project cost. About $8 million will come from the state of Michigan.
Peter Rogroff, administrator for the Federal Transit Administration said the new “Silver Line” is bus rapid transit done right.
“This is $32 million of tax dollars paid by Michigan residents coming back to Michigan,” Rogroff said. “This shows that Grand Rapids is a national leader bringing people from all walks of life to public transit.”
Lt. Governor Brian Calley was also on hand to support the project, which will connect the city's Central Business District down to 60th Street via Division Avenue. The project and the collaboration between federal, state and local government is something that was long-needed in the area of transportation and is now an example of how the parties can come together, Calley said.
Division Avenue is the city’s Route 66 and there is a lot of opportunity in this corridor, said Peter Varga, CEO of The Rapid.
“We can’t forget this is not about big things,” he said. “It’s about ordinary people using this…getting all communities under one fabric.”
The BRT project is one-tenth the cost of installing a light rail system and there is no difference in commute time, he said.
The new 9.6-mile line will serve several major employers, including St. Mary’s Medical campus, Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, the Grand Valley State University Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences. While final numbers are not yet in, ridership in 2012 should hit approximately 11.98 million rides, about 1.13 million more rides than in 2011, according The Rapid. If the numbers hit their mark, it would be the largest year-over-year increase in ridership in The Rapid’s History.
** Editor’s Note: This story has changed from it’s original form. The GVSU Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences was incorrectly identified in a previous version of the story.