The Grand Valley Metro Council’s 2045 transportation plan has cleared the federal review process. The plan focuses on Kent and eastern Ottawa County projects. It’s a 25-year plan, but it’s also fluid reviewed every four years. We talk with Andrea Faber. She’s a Transportation Planner with Grand Valley Metro Council.
Andrea Faber: "As you're aware our 2045 Metropolitan transportation plan just cleared the federal review process. So I was able to take part in communicating with the public and various stakeholders throughout the entire process and its really exciting because it's an opportunity to really meet the rapidly changing transportation needs in an economically growing region by collaborating with the public and various stakeholders."
Patrick Center: "So, you have these two areas. An area that is growing and shifting needs so what was the public telling you and how did it line up with what you think the region needs?"
Andrea Faber: "So, for the 2045 Metropolitan transportation plan which is our long-range planning document for the region, one of the first steps was conducting a public survey, so that survey asked 10 different questions to the public and we had 867 responses to that that represented the whole region we planned for Kent and Eastern Ottawa County. So as responses came in we were able to map the different zip code areas to make sure that all areas were included and the top priorities from the public were by a long shot improving roadway pavement condition. Which was the winner and then behind that was: use technology to reduce traffic congestion and delays and then the 3rd choice was widen busy roads and interchanges and that was very close to reflecting the result of the survey that we did 5 years ago for our last long-range plan so we're continuing to see these trends carrying forward."
Patrick Center: "One and three seem obvious. Number two, explain a little bit about the implementation of new technologies."
Andrea Faber: "That is complex, so basically, we have ITS technology that can, I don’t know if you’ve seen a dynamic message board on a highway where they’ll say the number of minutes to get to this destination and such but, using technology in that way could potentially help reduce traffic congestion and technology is an advanced thing. We have a brand-new chapter and the MPP on a ton of vehicles so that is another area where technology can really show up and potentially reduce congestion and to get more people on *inaudible*."
Patrick Center: "And public transportation what are some of the needs there?"
Andrea Faber: "Those are far and wide. The Rapid was able to provide us a with a long list of needs and they have a lot of unfunded needs as a well and we heard a lot of comments from the public 500 and some people who filled out the survey also left comments and one of the major areas that were commented on was public transit and with requests for more service time, safety issues there were a wide variety."
Patrick Center: "Every five years this gets updated and of course, we're looking at a 25-year plan so short term what are we going to see in the next few years and then what are some of the big long-term projects?"
Andrea Faber: "It's a get a little bit complicated with explaining that, but the long-range plan basically lays out our priorities for investing in the transportation system, and it’s updated every 4 years. There was an extra year that we were given for the plan because of air quality issues we’re given an extra year for that. Its typically every 4 years just background briefing that. So, the long-range plan includes transportation projects and investment priorities for the future and then we have our short-range plan which is the transportation improvement program and that lists transportation projects from 2020 to 2023. So those projects are included in the long-range plan and then we also have bins of funding and the long-range plan beyond 2023, we have various federal funding sources, some of them are very flexible and can be used for a wide variety of projects, some of them are very specific. Like for instance our transportation alternative program funding can only be used for non-motorized projects. So, beyond 2023, we have a lot of bins of funding in the long-range plan that has yet to be allocated and that was a decision that was made by our committee. As they went through the process they recognize that we are in a rapidly growing and changing city needs change based on what is going on and we've gone through some pretty major shifts with COVID right now where you know, that might have an impact on this down the road. So, they wanted to wait on programming those bins of funding until they have a better idea in the future like the next go around and we develop our next short-range plan to program those funds. We do have some long-range projects in the plan from MDOT and then we also have a lot of *inaudible* projects which means that they don't have committed funding from our local jurisdiction."
Patrick Center: "It sounds like there may be some rails to trails programs that type of thing that there are dollars allocated for with some of the park systems."
Andrea Faber: "With non-motorized they do have their own bin of funding, but we can also use other funding sources to fund non-motorized. Some funding sources are very specific to just certain types of projects, other funding sources are more broad and can be more flexible in how they’re programed."
Patrick Center: "So how much money are we talking about here from the feds?"
Andrea Faber: "Overall, we have for state, federal and local money we have $6.8 billion dollars that we're anticipating seeing and not based on our financial analysis that we did last fall if we include transit that at $10.8 billion."
Patrick Center: "And that's over the 25 years?"
Andrea Faber: "Over the 25 years correct."
Patrick Center: "Is this all guaranteed money at this point?"
Andrea Faber: "It is not. The only projects that are guaranteed that are there have committed funding are on the project list and that as our tip 2020 to 2023 and the projects that were listed by MDOT have commitments as well. So, anything else is not guaranteed at this point. I just want to emphasize gratitude to the local community because we were able to reach so many people with the survey and that survey was foundational to the documents. So, by starting with that base so early and really getting a pulse on what the needs of the public were. We were able to integrate that into the document and the vision statement, into the goals and objectives. We conducted a new analysis. So basically the purpose of the long-range plan is to look at the needs of the system and say this is where we are and this is where we need to go to have the system functioning optimally and this is the money that we need to get there and that is the money that we have and there is a shortfall in federal funding so it will be interesting to see how that plays out in the future but, having all that public input early on and by mapping the survey results to make sure every area was included and then for areas that were lower in responses I was able to physically go to different events in those communities. We printed a hard copy the survey for senior neighbors to distribute to seniors who didn't have Internet access. I helped a couple people fill out the survey who identified themselves as being illiterate I went to Rapid central station and put up a table there during rush hours we really made sure that the results that we were getting were far reaching a representative of the area and the committees that we worked with through the process also contained representatives or from the area. I just want to emphasize the collaborative effort that took place between the public various stakeholders we reach out to: various stakeholders that are involved in freight movement who have an environmental aspect in what they do and such and coordinate with them, run any proposed project past them, we conduct environmental justice, we make sure that none of the projects could adversely impact any population group and at the end of the day we have a 359 page document that’s the result of a lot of collaboration that includes voices from a lot of people public comments are strewn throughout it kind of woven into it to emphasize what the needs are that we've identified and what they need to see to be to be happy with the system."
Patrick Center: "Andrea Faber you are a transportation planner with the Grand Valley Metro Council. Thank you so much."
Andrea Faber: "Thank you, Patrick."