Transit Contract Tied to Local Funding

Authorization for a $1.5 million contract for further study of a transportation connector between the northeast and south sides of Ann Arbor has been given contingent approval by the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board.

The authorization, which the AATA board gave at its Sept. 27, 2012 meeting, is conditional on additional local funding – in the amount of $60,000. The $60,000 would be part of a total $300,000 local match for a $1.2 million federal grant.

The corridor runs from US-23 and Plymouth southward along Plymouth to State Street and farther south to I-94. This alternatives analysis phase of the study is to result in identifying a preferred choice of technology (e.g., bus rapid transit, light rail, etc.) and the location of stations and stops.

The Ann Arbor city council voted on Sept. 4, 2012 to reject the $60,000 request, but reconsidered that vote two weeks later on Sept. 17, 2012. But on reconsideration of the vote, the council decided to postpone a decision until Oct. 15.

In the meantime, some of the requested $60,000 might actually be provided by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority. Initial indications to the AATA were that the DDA’s budget constraints would not allow a contribution to the local match. But at a Sept. 26, 2012 meeting of the DDA’s operations committee, it was decided that the full DDA board would be asked to consider a connector study funding resolution at its Oct. 3 meeting. The DDA resolution would specify a $30,000 total contribution by the DDA, in two $15,000 payments to be made in each of the next two years. Members of the DDA’s operations committee wanted to make the $30,000 contingent on the city of Ann Arbor providing the other $30,000.

The $60,000 is a portion of $300,000 in local funding that has been identified to provide the required match for a $1.2 million federal grant awarded last year to the AATA for the alternatives analysis phase. The breakdown of local support was originally intended to be: $60,000 from the city of Ann Arbor; $150,000 from the University of Michigan; and $90,000 from the AATA.

The timeline for completion of the study, which would be done by URS Corp., would be about a year and a half. Part of the AATA board’s rationale for moving ahead with the contingent authorization of the contract relates to the time that has elapsed since receiving a bid from URS to do the second phase of the study. According to an AATA staff memo, URS has held the price for the work at the original bid price – for now.

A feasibility study for the corridor costing $640,000 has already been completed by URS. That initial study concluded that some type of improved high-capacity transit system would be feasible – which could take the form of bus rapid transit, light rail transit, or elevated automated guideway transit. That study had been funded through a partnership with the city of Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor DDA, University of Michigan and the AATA. Chronicle coverage of that feasibility study includes: “Transit Connector Study: Initial Analysis“; “AATA: Transit Study, Planning Updates“; and “Washtenaw Transit Talks in Flux.”

This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library, where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]