- Erin Kirkland/Daily
By Adam Rubenfire, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 21, 2011
U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.), members of the Ann Arbor City Council and several city employees made the first crack in the demolition of the East Stadium Boulevard bridges yesterday.
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A groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of a construction project that will rebuild the diminishing bridges south of Michigan Stadium. City and county officials also announced a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to improve transportation throughout Washtenaw County.
Funding for the East Stadium Bridges Improvement Project, which will begin Nov. 28, will come from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Transportation and the city of Ann Arbor’s 2006 Street Reconstruction Millage.
Dingell told a crowd under the bridge that obtaining funding for the project was a collaborative effort between city, state and federal officials.
“It wasn’t one of us that did it,” Dingell said. “We did it, all of us working together.”
Dingell pointed out that the deteriorating bridges posed a serious public safety risk and said he personally tries to avoid traveling on the structure. He added that it is important that damaged bridges around the country are fixed because they facilitate regional commerce.
“We are allowing the whole of our infrastructure to quite frankly get in serious danger,” Dingell said.
While some members of Congress have argued that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has not boosted the nation’s economy, Dingell said the money it provided to the East Stadium Bridges Improvement Project will be essential to improve the economy of the area. The project is estimated to add 448 jobs, according to Dingell.
“The ARRA and the recovery legislation has worked,” Dingell said in an interview after the ceremony. “And it’s going to do more to see to it that we have jobs and opportunity.”
MDOT Director Kirk Steudle said he is pleased the bridge improvements will include extra width for sidewalks and bike paths. Those components will be important when the 2012 college football season begins, he said.
Steudle echoed Dingell’s remarks and said bridges and highways make up the “backbone” of the Michigan and U.S. economies.
Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said several bridges throughout the country have been shut down because there was not sufficient funding for repairs, and the city has been fortunate to receive funding to repair its structures.
In an interview after the ceremony, Hieftje said 48,000 vehicles travel over the Stadium Bridges every day. Though some question the bridges’ safety, Hieftje said engineers inspect it weekly.
“We are sure it’s in good condition, but it’s certainly time to bring it down,” Hieftje said.
HUD announces funding for county
At an event at the Washtenaw County Service Center on Washtenaw Ave. yesterday afternoon, administrators from Washtenaw County and HUD announced a $3 million grant for Washtenaw County as part of HUD’s Community Challenge Grant program.
The Community Challenge Grant supports regional development plans that aim to improve economic vitality while keeping sustainability in mind.
In an interview after the event, HUD Midwest Regional Administrator Antonio Riley said the Obama administration has had more success than other administrations in connecting sustainability and housing development.
HUD’s newly formed Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities — a collaboration between HUD, the U.S.