Ann Arbor Approves Bridges Agreement

At a special meeting that had been announced at a city council work session two days earlier, the Ann Arbor city council voted to authorize signing a contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation related to a $13.9 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) II grant. Announcement of the grant’s award to the city of Ann Arbor – for the reconstruction of the E. Stadium Boulevard bridges – had come in October 2010.

The council’s special session reflected an urgency to complete the contract. That urgency stemmed from the March 18 expiration of a continuing resolution (CR) passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on March 2. A CR is a mechanism for keeping the federal government operating based on the previous fiscal year’s budget assumptions, until formal appropriations bills are passed by Congress.

Based on proposals brought forward in February by U.S. House Republicans, but ultimately not enacted, the current two-week CR would have eliminated TIGER II grants. And based on the political posturing that took place on the current CR, the Ann Arbor city council was taking the step of signing the contract as soon as it could, to allow the U.S. Federal Highway Administration to “obligate” part of the TIGER II grant funds for the bridges project under the current CR – as a hedge against the possibility that a subsequent CR might cut TIGER II funding.

The agreement authorized by the council allows the Dept. of Transportation to obligate only $800,000 of the grant, which is to be used for the initial phase of the project – acquisition of right-of-way.

A public informational meeting on the status of the project is scheduled for Wednesday, March 23 from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Pioneer High School cafeteria.

This brief was filed from CTN television studios, where the council met due to ongoing renovations to city hall. A more detailed account of the meeting will follow: [link]