Ann Arbor City Council members rejected a proposal Tuesday evening to pursue a transportation study that would examine the durability and capacity of the city’s roadways as an increasing number of vehicles take to the streets.
Eight votes were required to pass the proposal, but only four councilmembers voted in favor, with five opposing the measure.
Councilmembers Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1), Sandi Smith (D–Ward 1), Margie Teall (D–Ward 4), Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) and Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5) voted against the measure, while Councilmembers Tony Derezinski (D–Ward 2), Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3), Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3) and Mayor John Hieftje supported it.
Marcia Higgins (D–Ward 4) and Carsten Hohnke (D–Ward 5) were not present at Tuesday’s meeting.
Eli Cooper, the city’s transportation program manager, said without the study, there would be a significant strain on Ann Arbor’s transportation systems in the future. He noted that as more jobs come to the city as a result of the establishment of new University facilities, more cars may create congestion and force asphalt to deteriorate more quickly.
One of the main issues that councilmembers considered was the cost of the study, which would have borrowed $60,000 from the city’s general fund to supplement federal and state grants.
Kunselman voted in favor of the project, but said he worried about how much the city would have to contribute, especially from the general fund.
“We are all over the place,” Kunselman said. “The idea that we are going to be building a lot of things for mass transit without any idea of how we are going to pay for the operations leaves me with a little concern.”
Lumm said she was dissatisfied with the information provided from similar studies that are currently being performed.
“We continue on this path to implement studies without asking basic questions… So in the spirit of transparency, the community deserves to understand the whole picture,” Lumm said. “I don’t, and they don’t. And I believe that rather than embark on another transportation study we owe the community some answers first.”
Toward the end of the discussion, Derezinski pledged his support for the study. In an interview after the meeting, he said he felt the councilmembers made an oversight.
“Thinking down the road, not getting the data I think is a big mistake,” Derezinski said. “If we finally come to a crisis where everything is just stagnated in terms of transportation then it is so much more expensive to fix the problem, but if we start now we can solve a problem in an efficient and prudent way.”
Briere wavered between both sides of the debate. She said in an interview after the meeting that her vote came down to what would be the greatest benefit to Ann Arbor residents.
“I’m still stuck on how the rest of us (besides the University) benefit except indirectly,” Briere said. “I want someone to make that connection for me. Not somebody telling me another study they need to do.”