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Transportation advocates in Grand Rapids rally for long term federal funding bill

Apr 9, 2015

Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Officials in Grand Rapids joined a nationwide effort today to rally support for long term federal funding for transportation infrastructure.

Current funding for things like new busses expires at the end of May.

That makes Barb Holt, who chairs the board for the bus system in Grand Rapids, nervous.

“We’re afraid what’s going to happen is there’s going to be a short term reauthorization, which doesn’t give us long term planning options,” Holt said.

The board wants federal funding to support a second bus rapid transit line for a super popular route between downtown and Grand Valley State University’s campus, 11 miles west in Allendale Township.

“(The rally) is just kind of pushing Congress along. In a way that’s hopefully positive, we’re not, you know, stomping our feet,” Holt said. “We’re just calling attention to what’s needed.”

Steve Heacock is Senior VP for Public Affairs at Spectrum Health. He also once ran for Congress in the republican primary. 

“I’m somebody that politically believes in a limited federal government and don’t often applaud federal programs,” he said.

But Heacock says federal funding for things like highways, bridges and busses is important.

“We’re not just talking about New York, or Boston or DC, and they’re important, but Grand Rapids is important as well,” Heacock said.

He says 11% more Spectrum workers are taking the bus since a new bus rapid transit line went in last summer.

The group also highlighted the number of jobs dependent on infrastructure projects.

Dave McLaughlin is with American Seating Company. The Grand Rapids based company has been making bus seats for 68 years.

“We hope to do it for a good deal longer than that, however we need consistent and predictable federal funding in order to grow our business and survive quite frankly,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin says more than half of the materials for their seats are from Michigan suppliers.