DETROIT (WWJ) – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced $46.7 million for 16 Michigan transportation projects.

The announcement followed a meeting between LaHood, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, Governor Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and local officials to discuss how to help Detroit and Southeast Michigan move forward with regional transit solutions.

“Strengthening and modernizing Michigan’s transit systems will generate thousands of construction-related jobs and put more money in the pockets of working Americans,” said LaHood, in a statement.

“But we must do more. Congress needs to pass the American Jobs Act so we can continue to invest in critically needed projects to repair and rebuild our nation’s transportation infrastructure,” he added.

The Michigan grants are among more than 300 competitive discretionary grants totaling nearly $930 million announced nationwide Monday by LaHood and Rogoff to rebuild and renovate America’s transit infrastructure and plan for the future.

The funds are from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) fiscal year 2011 Alternatives Analysis, Bus Livability, and State of Good Repair programs.

Meantime, mass transit riders fed up with the city’s less than stellar service have been speaking out about what they think should be done to fix the system.

Instead of focusing on long-term issues such as high-speed rail or light rail, local residents such as bus rider Karen Porter would like to see a more dependable mass transit system with buses that run on time.

“People out here gotta go to work, people got school, and they depend on the public transportation,” Porter said. “We deserve to have those things to be on time. If they was in our shoes they would like the same thing as well, too.”

LaHood, along with Snyder and Bing, were expected to discuss ways to improve Detroit’s current transportation system, as well as upcoming projects including the Woodward Light Rail project and a high-speed rail between Detroit and Kalamazoo.

City bus rider Brain Vogan said that sounds promising, but it all comes back to making the city system much more dependable, which enables people to get to work and school on time.

“Sometimes every other day buses like are on time and there are like more buses [running] while other days there will be like one bus trying to speed through,” Vogan said.

Bus rider Nicole Scruggs agreed the current system is broken down and unreliable and she says a city and state this size deserve a more advanced form of mass transit.

“You need to get a mass transportation system like a subway or L system. You need to empower us by making sure that the bus system is ran properly,” Scruggs said.

Better customer service is another problem with the current system, according to bus riders. Scruggs, having experienced this problem first hand, would like to give city transportation officials a piece of her mind.

“I helped a gentleman on Grand River. He had to be in his fifties running to catch the bus and then she (the driver) finally slowed down. He blew a vein, laying on the street, and she was like ‘No, don’t get on the bus’ and she called in and wouldn’t even get off the bus to help him. I got off the bus to help him,” Scruggs said.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials is hosting their annual meeting at the Renaissance Center, now through October 17.


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