U.S. Department of Transportation

Dwight Burdette / Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding the city of Detroit $26 million to buy 50 new buses. 

Long wait times and broken-down buses have been a problem in the city, as it's struggled to keep its aging fleet in working order. 

"Like any good triage, you've got to tackle the biggest things first," Megan Owens said. Owens is executive director of Transportation Riders United, a non-profit that aims to improve public transportation in downtown Detroit. "The biggest things are having enough working buses, and having enough people to drive them." 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s first bus rapid transit system will be built in the Grand Rapids area. Bus rapid transit operates similar to light rail, but because less infrastructure is needed, bus rapid transit is much cheaper. Buses will arrive at stops every ten minutes. They’ll have designated lanes and be able to change traffic lights so they don’t have to slow down.

On Thursday federal, state and local officials gathered at The Rapid Central Station to officially sign the agreement. Peter Rogoff is with the Federal Transit Administration.

“It’s going to lower commute times by some 40-percent and even for folks that never take the bus, it’s going to take congestion off of US-131 and off of Division; in a way that’s going to be beneficial to everybody,” Rogoff said.

The new bus line, the Silver Line, won’t be complete until the summer of 2014, according to The Rapid CEO Peter Varga. It will run almost ten miles between the residential suburbs south of Grand Rapids up to major employers and the ‘medical mile’ in the downtown area.

More money for Michigan transportation projects?
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The U.S. Department of Transportation announced today it will make available $473 million in road funds to states with pending transportation projects.

In a press release, U.S. Department of Transportation said the money comes from unspent earmarks from FY 2003-2006.

Effective today, state departments of transportation will have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway funds, some of which are nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.

The Detroit News reports Michigan has $15.8 million in 28 projects that hasn't been spent that the state can redirect.

"It will be up to Michigan how to decide to spend their money," LaHood said.

State departments of transportation will have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway money, some of which is nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.

The Obama Administration wants the money spent soon. To use the funds, states must identify projects by October 1, and must obligate them by December 31, 2012.

Matt Picio / Flickr

We reported last week about the federal money coming to the state, and Sarah Hulett reported on more details released yesterday.

In case you missed it, here's how the $46.7 million from Federal Transit Administration’s Alternatives Analysis, Bus Livability, and State of Good Repair grant program is broken up in Michigan:

fabi k / Creative Commons

Nine public transportation systems in Michigan have won competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The grants announced Thursday total nearly $44 million.