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Grand Rapids - August 2008

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Grand Rapids — Streetcar Costs Rise

Rail Transit Online, August 2008

A new 32-page report by consultant DMJM Harris on a proposed downtown streetcar system has found that the cost has jumped from an estimated $69 million last year, when it was first proposed, to nearly $79 million now. The three-mile (4.8 km), 16-station route, using modern streetcars, would run on Monroe Avenue NW from the Sixth Street Bridge, then across West Fulton Street and along Market Avenue SW to the Central Station transit hub.

However, if construction were to start in 2012, the price tag would surge to around $87 million, or $24.8 million a mile ($15.4 million per kilometer). Conducted at a cost of $360,000, the DMJM analysis found that federal capital funding would not be available and suggested financing the project with private-sector contributions, a new local sales tax and a parking tax.

But local leaders are reluctant to talk about taxes, some of which would be extremely difficult to implement; increasing the sales tax would require a constitutional amendment and approval by local voters. "It will be like everything else in Grand Rapids — public and private partnerships," Jeanne Englehart, president of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, told The Grand Rapids Press. "You're going to have to have partnerships because it's a big project and it's expensive."

Public sources could include the state of Michigan and some cash from the local transit agency known as The Rapid. However, according to the DMJM study, the streetcar could spawn almost $5 in development for every dollar spent on construction. Meanwhile, The Rapid has received a $480,000 federal grant for more studies.


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