GR considering loan to fix roads

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The City of Grand Rapids is looking into borrowing about $2 million to fix its roads.

It was only last week that Grand Rapids voters passed a 15-year income tax extension to fund road repair. But it won’t take effect until 2015, and the city says it can’t wait that long.

“It kind of looks like you’re driving drunk, but you’re not. You’re just avoiding potholes,” pizza delivery driver Javon Jacobs said.

He spends a lot of time on city streets, which he was quick to describe as “horrible. Absolutely horrible.”

The city agrees.

“I am interested in beginning work immediately,” City Manager Greg Sundstrom said.

He says if the city doesn’t get money now, repairs will cost taxpayers more in the future.

The city this week proposed asking for a loan of about $2 million to start road work this summer.

That may sound like a lot, but Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong said it will actually save the city money.

“We’re actually doing work now that if we waited to do later, the streets would be in worse condition. We might be in a reconstruction mode instead of a rehab mode,” DeLong said.

That translates to a big difference in cost, according to the city: One mile of road reconstruction costs about $1 million, while that amount can rehab four miles.

Or, as DeLong put it, rehab is “four times more economical.”

And, he said, “people will see more of an improvement, sooner.”

Rehab work can be done in weeks compared to months. And reconstruction usually requires a year of planning before work can begin.

“The sooner the better, because I’m driving a friend’s car. This isn’t even my car because the road screwed up my car,” delivery driver Jacobs said.

City Commission will decide in the next few months whether to go through with the plan, borrowing from either city funds or the open market. If it passes, work could start as soon as July.

The money would be paid back with funds from the streets tax.

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