Is the $13.9 million federal grant for Ann Arbor's Stadium bridges project in jeopardy?
Ann Arbor officials say they're moving ahead on preparations for the East Stadium Bridges replacement project unfazed by a GOP-led effort in Washington, D.C., to cut discretionary transportation funding from the federal budget.
Homayoon Pirooz, head of the city's project management unit, said his office is continuing to work on the project with the assumption that a $13.9 million TIGER II grant Ann Arbor was awarded in October will come through and that construction will begin later this fall.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Mayor John Hieftje said he talked with U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, who helped the city secure the grant last fall. He said he's been assured that a House vote defeating the $600 million TIGER II program is little more than political posturing by Republicans in Congress.
"I spoke with the congressman. They don't feel that it's in danger at all," Hieftje said. "Certainly if anything ever did go wrong with it, we're prepared to move ahead with the bridges."
Without funding assistance, it would cost the city $23 million of its own money to replace the bridges, which would deal a blow to local street projects. With the TIGER II grant and additional funding from the state of Michigan, the city has $17.3 million in grants for the project.
Some think the money is "dead and gone," though.
"Here’s the scoop for A2 politicos: TIGER II grants are dead and gone. Yes. Gone," reads an A2Politico.com blog post. "Ann Arbor’s $13.9 million TIGER II Grant delivered by Representative John Dingell in October 2010 just in time to give his own re-election bid a big boost, is gone."
Betsy Barrett, communications director for Dingell, said a lot of inaccurate information is floating around about the TIGER II grants. She said the GOP's cuts are unlikely to pass the Senate or be signed by President Barack Obama.
"The House Continuing Resolution was just the first step of a long process, and unfortunately, it is just Republican political posturing once again," she said. "The bill has not been taken up in the Senate, and the Senate isn’t likely to take up the House-passed form, which is the version that targets TIGER funding."
Dingell has fought "incredibly hard" for the Stadium bridges project and will continue to work with local leaders and the U.S. Department of Transportation to make it happen, Barrett said.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.