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A double decker highway from the 131-196 interchange up the hill to College would be great. We could get an extra lane traveling in each direction and free up some space for rail. Add the park over top the entire thing and Pill Hill will be a really nice, well-connected area.

-nb

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All this talk about rail made me find these from the library

Fancy new Laker Line stop at the zoo!

Maybe they're going to be antiquated articulating buses....?  

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that article is pretty stupid

for one widining college from 5 to seven lanes is probably only from the 196 exit to Michigan because that is the only place that its 5 lane right now and its a bottle neck because its only about a 200 yard distance. The two additional lanes would probably be much need right turn lanes because if you ever use that exit comming into downtown you would know that there are a lot of back up from people trying to turn right from S bound college and turning right from N bound college to E bound 196.

second Michigan is already 6 or 7 lanes in some areas, they are not going to widin that and its nothing new.

third 196. How would this be negative to the community in any way? This is probably the most deserving freeway widining project I can think of. Its 2 lanes in each dirction! This is one of the oldest freeway running through a downtown in the country and its inly 4 lanes wide total. In most cities it would probably be 8-10 lanes. They are adding an additional lane in each direction to bring the grand total to 6 lanes. There are already extra wide sholders and median between the lanes. So that means they are not going to need to widin the bridges out mush further if any at all because they can bring them closer together or connect them. If the problem is having them connected vs. having a gap between them, I don;t understand or care because your talking about highway bridges, it would be nice to see them decerate them up undernith and the overpasses on 196.

The only problem I agree with on the hill is with the tower development not MDOT. I think its redicuous that the base of some of the towers are going to be a brick wall along MIchigan, that might create a little problem with the pedestrians and its ugly and a waste of space

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that article is pretty stupid

for one widining college from 5 to seven lanes is probably only from the 196 exit to Michigan because that is the only place that its 5 lane right now and its a bottle neck because its only about a 200 yard distance. The two additional lanes would probably be much need right turn lanes because if you ever use that exit comming into downtown you would know that there are a lot of back up from people trying to turn right from S bound college and turning right from N bound college to E bound 196.

second Michigan is already 6 or 7 lanes in some areas, they are not going to widin that and its nothing new.

third 196. How would this be negative to the community in any way? This is probably the most deserving freeway widining project I can think of. Its 2 lanes in each dirction! This is one of the oldest freeway running through a downtown in the country and its inly 4 lanes wide total. In most cities it would probably be 8-10 lanes. They are adding an additional lane in each direction to bring the grand total to 6 lanes. There are already extra wide sholders and median between the lanes. So that means they are not going to need to widin the bridges out mush further if any at all because they can bring them closer together or connect them. If the problem is having them connected vs. having a gap between them, I don;t understand or care because your talking about highway bridges, it would be nice to see them decerate them up undernith and the overpasses on 196.

The only problem I agree with on the hill is with the tower development not MDOT. I think its redicuous that the base of some of the towers are going to be a brick wall along MIchigan, that might create a little problem with the pedestrians and its ugly and a waste of space

Where is Michigan 6 or 7 lanes now? They ARE planning to make Michigan wider than it is now.

I-196 widening: They are going to have to widen the bridges. In fact, they are already doing that now over Ottawa and Division, and they plan to do it with almost every bridge all the way out to the Beltline.

Widening highways and roads increases congestion. It has been proven.

Before calling out someone as stupid, perhaps you should gain a better understanding of the issues.

GaryP, I agree. I just don't know how ordinary citizens can have any influence over the decision making process.

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This may have been proposed before, but here is what I think. Light rail should connect the Airport to downtown via a light rail line in the median, down I-96 to I-196 terminating at the health complex. Stops at stations with commuter lots at Cascade, East Beltline, and Fuller should be included. A transfer station at the health complex would allow those individuals needing to go downtown to catch a street car down the hill to Monroe, Michigan, and further down Bridge which would service the GVSU Pew campus too.

Edited by mpchicago
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I personally feel that widening 196 is long overdue...I hate driving down 196 because you have people going too fast anyways because it's 55mph and everyone is going 80...and congested as it is already, you have people trying to merge into the expressway and there's no room to get over (much like everytime I try going 131 southbound getting on the I96 eastbound ramp you've got like 10 seconds to get over or you are going 131 northbound. Now that I think of it everytime I go on that ramp there's a stupid semi in my way and was forced to go 131 northbound a couple times...

As for Michigan...I'm not sure if widening would be such a good idea...of course I never drive in through the rush hour and none of us will really know how bad the congestion is until people are working in these new buildings...but I don't think it's all that necessary.

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I personally feel that widening 196 is long overdue...I hate driving down 196 because you have people going too fast anyways because it's 55mph and everyone is going 80...and congested as it is already, you have people trying to merge into the expressway and there's no room to get over (much like everytime I try going 131 southbound getting on the I96 eastbound ramp you've got like 10 seconds to get over or you are going 131 northbound. Now that I think of it everytime I go on that ramp there's a stupid semi in my way and was forced to go 131 northbound a couple times...

As for Michigan...I'm not sure if widening would be such a good idea...of course I never drive in through the rush hour and none of us will really know how bad the congestion is until people are working in these new buildings...but I don't think it's all that necessary.

So widening the highway will slow people down, eh? :P

I-196 is not congested. I drive it several times a day both mornings and evenings. It's only busy (not congested) about 1 hour a day. The rest of the day it is dead. I think Leonard Avenue probably has higher traffic counts during the day, because I occasionally take that way too.

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The thing I don't get is that the Health Hill and related projects will be bringing in thousands and thousands of jobs. That is always a good thing, except that the way the current situation is, each of those jobs, with few exceptions will bring along a vehicle to park. This is not including the patients. I just don't see how widening the highway a couple of lanes and making Michigan Ave have more capacity is going to do much of anything. A few more lanes is not going to deal with several thousand cars and there simply can't be enough parking to accomodate them all. The math just doesn't add up. We have to change the way we think and travel. The old "drive and park" method is not going to cut it. If we want to attract people to work here, we have to be cutting edge not only in our medical facilities, but also in our transportation options. Let's get light rail, streetcars, whatever, but we have to step up to the next level! :thumbsup:

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If our Metro and City can be a leader in environmental sustainability we should continue on into how we move ourselves around the area. I'm convinced that if the idea of rail was permeated throughout the entire area it will take hold.

Why should we wait for a break-through in energy technology for our personal vehicles when we have the tried and true concept of rail transit.

Why should we continue to worry about parking ramps in the bottom line?

A cultural revolution, not on the part of the wouldbe rider -- but on everyone who has a public voice. People need to start thinking aloud and not worried about speaking about rail transit. Cue Logie.

Edited by Rizzo
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So widening the highway will slow people down, eh? :P

I-196 is not congested. I drive it several times a day both mornings and evenings. It's only busy (not congested) about 1 hour a day. The rest of the day it is dead. I think Leonard Avenue probably has higher traffic counts during the day, because I occasionally take that way too.

No I just like driving in the middle lane where the other two lanes are served as "If you don't like it, pick a side to pass" game :rofl:

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I personally feel that widening 196 is long overdue...I hate driving down 196 because you have people going too fast anyways because it's 55mph and everyone is going 80...and congested as it is already, you have people trying to merge into the expressway and there's no room to get over (much like everytime I try going 131 southbound getting on the I96 eastbound ramp you've got like 10 seconds to get over or you are going 131 northbound. Now that I think of it everytime I go on that ramp there's a stupid semi in my way and was forced to go 131 northbound a couple times...

As for Michigan...I'm not sure if widening would be such a good idea...of course I never drive in through the rush hour and none of us will really know how bad the congestion is until people are working in these new buildings...but I don't think it's all that necessary.

I'm not sure how adding lanes would make it easier for you to get across the highway to your exit ramp... It seems to me that 2 lanes would be easier to cross than 3. What gets me is that lane widening is such an expensive and short term "solution"... the idea of the commuter rail from the Beltline would permanently remove traffic from 196, allow for more building of functional space on Health Hill (and less parking space) which would allow for a more pedestrian friendly, urban environment. I bet you could build and run such a rail line for 10-15 years for less $$$ than it will take to widen 196.

However, MDOT's collective mind, I fear, is hard to change. They seem to be stuck in 1985 or so, while the rest of the states are considering alternate modes of transportation on a (more) equal footing.

In the meantime, we have very little congestion. Wow. I wonder if it's really worth it.

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I broke it down and the route would be about 4 miles long. I've got to believe that it could be done for $200 - $250 Million, and at the same time repave I-196, make the merge lanes longer, and rebuild the bridges (which does need to be done), and keep it around $350 Million. This would be the first time though that State funds were diverted from roads to rail, and I would imagine it would be slammed by the East side of the State or the governor. But it would put us with a select few progressive States that have decided to forego the Feds and fund rail themselves.

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I broke it down and the route would be about 4 miles long. I've got to believe that it could be done for $200 - $250 Million, and at the same time repave I-196, make the merge lanes longer, and rebuild the bridges (which does need to be done), and keep it around $350 Million. This would be the first time though that State funds were diverted from roads to rail, and I would imagine it would be slammed by the East side of the State or the governor. But it would put us with a select few progressive States that have decided to forego the Feds and fund rail themselves.

Isn't the $400 million budgeted for the project mostly Fed money anyway? I assumed it was.

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Isn't the $400 million budgeted for the project mostly Fed money anyway? I assumed it was.

I would get used to the 1/2 billion dollar number. By the time the I-196 expansion project gets underway in 2010 and the College overpass and Michigan bridge (related but $ coming from somewhere else) get added in, I think it will even top this number.

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Can you believe the levels of behind the scenes politicking going on with this? Unless the governor appoints a specific individual, non-partisan, to oversee this entire project/process, then the cost overruns and pork spending that we saw in Boston will be seen again right here! Every community in the state will want in! Every State Senator and Representative will have to win something for their district or they will lose their political rear ends!

As an involved member of a local Grand Rapids community, I will not support any stated obligation to match federal funds unless a cap is placed on the true dollar amount spent! And, unless the language specifies that overruns must also be voted on. In other words, no open hand policy with this project! Every monetary decision must be approved step by step. The taxpayer must be given some accountability.

Mr. Scott

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In spirit of that thread, here's a visionary rail line that I worked on:

Here's your future park-n-ride rail-station starting point, off of Leffingwell/Oak Industrial (and right next to I-196/East Beltline):

While the designer in me loves to fantasize about elevated trains and high-speed travel to distant metropolitan cities, my propensity for pragmatism and cautious, incremental investment makes it much easier for me to ponder shorter park-and-ride solutions than grander inter-urban ideas. As such, GRDad's suggestion (which includes photos when viewed earlier in this thread) is, in my mind, an excellent near term solution that addresses an immediate need - namely the already existent parking crisis downtown and the looming parking nightmare on Pill Hill.

What is evident in GRDad's solution is something that hasn't been spoken of much in this thread: namely the importance of the "other" end of the lines. We all agree that rail lines need to lead to employment concentrations, but the strategic location of the other end of a rail line can have an equally dramatic impact on traffic issues and commuter times. Furthermore, the location of the other end of the line is absolutely critical in order to create the convenience necessary to achieve ridership. Hence GRDad's idea to locate an end of the line near the East Belt Line/I96 interchange has a lot of merit - especially if that terminal could be given direct on/off access from the I96 and I196 expressways. I know alot of people favor having this line extend all the way to the airport, but this would be an excellent first step.

My only caution would be that the establishment of perimeter hubs too far from the central core could encourage sprawl. Thus, building on GRDad's wise selection of a near-metro hub, there are a few other places where a park-and-ride alternative could quickly diminish existing traffic problems without encouraging sprawl much beyond its current range.

A west side location could be as near-metro as the landfill by the gypsum mine on Market street. I haven't snooped around that area lately, but I do believe there are plenty of existing rail lines nearby. While I like the idea of longer-range service connecting Grand Valley's two campuses, this near term solution would be a great first step in the direction of Allendale and other communities to the west... and ultimately the lakeshore.

A south side location would probably want to be near the M6/131 interchange for all the same reasons as an East Belt Line location. As pondered in many other posts, this line could easily be extended south over time as demand for a connection all the way to KZoo grows.

A north side location could be as close as Whitecaps stadium where there is also plentiful land for parking and easy access to two major expressways (I196 and 131). The absence of demand for rail service towards Cadillac would probably argue for this line to terminate at the ballpark. But imagine this: you live in Gaines township on the south side and want to attend a ballgame? It would be easy to park near home and take rail service directly to the ball park! Maybe you even stop to enjoy the downtown core along the way!

And imagine what these near-core hubs could do to alleviate parking issues around the Arena! If a mere 15 percent of Arena event attendees used near-core rail, we'd see a tremendous step forward in downtown parking chaos during busy event times.

Again, I'm only speaking from a point of view that mass transit may be most successful of we begin by working on smaller, perhaps more achievable projects that would address more immediate needs and in the process we ultimately build the ridership necessary to grow the system beyond the metro area. Just humble thoughts for the ongoing conversation - inspired by what I think is a worthwhile suggestion by GRDad.

Edited by FilmMaker
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a line to the lakeshore would be used exhaustively, think about it, it could have a stop in allendale so that during the summer the thousands of beach gowers could go to GH and during the winter it could be mainly used for students from allendale to GR

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Thanks FilmMaker! The idea actually grew out of a conversation (over a brew) I had with bwindi25:

http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=29911

I too can see a future need for multiple park-n-ride systems serving downtown. If downtown continues to grow and be the focal point for the region, which it should, there will reach a point where it just will not be economical and desirable to provide parking for everyone downtown. Even now every third parcel of land is becoming a parking ramp, and to provide underground parking is outlandishly expensive. Some people might ask "Why take the train when I can just drive downtown and save time?". That may not be an option if parking becomes too expensive, or just downright a pain in the a**.

I like to call it "DASH on steroids", because essentially that is what it is. And the hope would be that desirable medium to high-density developments would grow up along these rail axis, further increasing their sustainability and keeping at least some development from spreading far out into the countryside. You could probably start the South corridor and run it just to 28th Street. That's really where the traffic squeeze starts to get bad.

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Why not go all the way to Allendale to start? I bet that would be the busiest line at first with all the students who are already taking the bus. I'm sure a line to the medical area would be great, but people there probably aren't as used to taking public transit. But the GVSU connector bus is filled past capacity during peak hours. It's already a proven route. By not extending the line all the way to Allendale the line would to totally useless by students unless there were a transfer station along the way. Plus, once you get out past 8th Ave the land isn't fully developed so right of way should be cheaper than the urban portion.

-nb

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Define busy and congested. While I don't think we have a real traffic problem in this city, 196 certainly is congested during rush hour. I used to work just off East Beltline and the drive back home to downtown at 5 was just awful. There isn't enough room to safely merge at speed on Fuller and College so traffic slows down to 30MPH with frequent stops every day. Eventually I just started taking Michigan all the way downtown because it was just as fast and less frustrating.

The rest of the day, no, it isn't too bad. It definitely does need to be rebuilt, however, and it might as well be built with the future in mind. I do wish the future included rail as well, but the two options are not mutually exclusive.

-nb

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As an involved member of a local Grand Rapids community, I will not support any stated obligation to match federal funds unless a cap is placed on the true dollar amount spent! And, unless the language specifies that overruns must also be voted on. In other words, no open hand policy with this project! Every monetary decision must be approved step by step. The taxpayer must be given some accountability.

Mr. Scott

The Feds these days have two programs for funding fixed rail transit in this country. New Starts and Small Starts. Some details:

  • New Starts are for systems that cost more than $250M and more than $75M is requested from the Feds.
  • Small Starts are for smaller systems that cost less than $250M and less than $75M is being requested from the Feds. The Small Starts evaluation process is less stingent.
  • There is no such thing as matching funds from the Feds. Instead, any amount up to 80% can be requested but the more that is requested, the more difficult it is to get the system funded.
  • The Feds will specify the total amount that can be spent on the project. Localities are not allowed to go over this amount without being subject to a congressional review and possible withdrawal of the federal funding.
  • The FTA is charged with approving projects for funding. Projects are evaluated for cost effectiveness. Projects that do not achieve at least a medium cost effectiveness rating will not be funded
  • Cost effectiveness is pretty much projected ridership divided into the total cost of the system and the financial viability which depends upon ongoing local funding. The Feds don't like to build systems that will close in a few years.
  • The FTA will provide a list of the systems that it approves to the President who decides to add it to next year's budget, and the entire congress votes on this list. They have a history of providing funding for any system approved by the FTA.

It is possible for a member of congress to earmark money for a specific transit project, but given the amounts of money that we are talking about, it amost never happens. Remember they have to get the rest of the congress to go along.

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