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Posted on Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 3:58 p.m.

Is the $13.9 million federal grant for Ann Arbor's Stadium bridges project in jeopardy?

By Ryan J. Stanton

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.


Officials inspect the Stadium bridges last year.

Ryan J. Stanton |

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 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 Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 7:01 p.m.

Everyone here is missing the only point that matters: Hoe can such an insignificant job cost $23M? The Santa Monica freeway bridge at La Cienega, which is 10 lines wide, longer than the stadium span, and design to withstand earthquakes, was rebuilt for $30M (including bonuses) in 67 days. Are the construction firms in Michigan so incompetent that they need $23M and a year to finish such a simple job?


Thu, Mar 3, 2011 : 2:21 a.m.

It's because the city, as always, is overconstructing it -- a search will bring up some plans -- it includes ridiculous bike lanes, and designs in the underpasses, and landscaping, and regrading, and all kinds of other multi-million projects that add to the bridge rebuilding that are unnecessary and unaffordable and adds millions to the costs. It's ridiculous.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 6:21 p.m.

I guess if we want to know about this funding, we're going to have to call Carl Levin's office ourselves to find o ut?


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 6:15 p.m.

Dingell dangled a carrot and we fell for it. We voted him into office for another few years. Now that Dingell is in office he is letting us know we fell for it and guess what. OOP's, no money to be had. Figures. This is another one of those I told you so scenarios. Good luck Ann Arbor getting your bridge fixed. It will be another one of those London's Bridge is falling down, but in Ann Arbors case? Stadium bridge is falling down. This article does not surprise me in the least.


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

Lets close the road, move in the power shovels and dump trucks and level the bridges. If and when the Fed money comes through, then rebuild the bridges. The city has to put in x millions anyway. I have always thought it would be great to turn directly onto State from Stadium and vice-versa.


Thu, Mar 3, 2011 : 2:18 a.m.

Agreed as well. It's been an eyesore since the 20's


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 6:16 p.m.

I could not agree more with this statement. Tear the bridge down and move on.

David Cahill

Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 2:42 p.m.

Here is (hopefully) a link to the US House Appropriations Committee's explanation of what's in the continuing resolution that will be approved by both houses and sent to the president: <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;PressRelease_id=266</a> It includes a link to the resolution itself. &quot;Department of Transportation - Surface Transportation Priorities&quot; is reduced from $293 million to $0.

Will Warner

Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

Without knowing all of the civil engineering implications, I'm drawn to the idea of removing the bridge. It went up in the early '50s I think when I'm guessing there was significantly more train traffic. Do trains even use that track at all anymore? So maybe a RR crossing gate there can be up almost all the time, and rarely hamper auto traffic. This will also permit a direct interchange with S. State.

Tom Teague

Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

The bridges were built in 1928 according to the city's project web site.


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 1:22 p.m.

'We have a trillion dollar deficit problem courtesy of people of both parties who simply can't say no to a spending bill. ' No, I'm afraid our trillion dollar deficit problem is courtesy of a huge, borrowed money tax cut for the wealthy and 2 wars that were unfunded (and even off budget). One of the things that was sacrificed for the tax cuts was our infrastructure needs such as the Stadium bridge. If the AA administration had gotten the RFPs moving at something more than snail pace we might have the money and have the bridge under construction.


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 1:13 p.m.

Halter got it right. Get rid of the bridge and don't rebuild it, put a gated crossing at the railroad - and maybe make it 2 real lanes each way, maybe even with bike paths on the side (what an idea!). This would have to be a cheaper solution (yes/no?) although it might take a while to get permission/right of way from the railroad. Face it, the bridge will need to be closed soon anyway whether construction is underway or not. It is a crumbling mess and unsafe for auto traffic and probably not even foot traffic. The current freeze/thaw cycle isn't going to help, and the bridge will be in worse shape ithis Spring than it was last Spring. Action is needed now to address the situation, not sit on our hands and wait for Federal funds that might never arrive.

Hot Sam

Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 1:11 p.m.

Perhaps it's time to rethink the idea of sending dollars to Washington in order to get sixty cents back...


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 12:25 p.m.

Apparently there are no realistic reporting options in journalism around here. It's either report that the funding is dead or fail to acknowledge even the uncertainty of funding (until today finally). Neither is acceptable. I guess the truth is just not 'sensational' enough.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 11:29 a.m.

Maybe it would be better journalism if we spoke to someone other than John Dingell's press flack and the Mayor, who has bungled the Stadium Bridges issues for the past decade, to find out more about the Tiger II funding. The compromise two week budget that was passed by the House--did that include anything impacting the funding? Is there someone in the Senate you could interview? Instead of tossing Pat Lesko into the mix, maybe you could look at why the Mayor has been in office for a decade and the bridge was off the City's radar until the State inspection forces the lane closure. Funny how when the Mayor is backed into a corner, always seems to drag Ms. Lesko into the discussion. She was just bringing up a real life budget issue. I would think it's your job to investigate the fact and report. Apparently not. Hopefully the Free Press has this on their radar so we can find out.


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 9:01 a.m.

Wait mayor, if the TIGER funds are not available, you say that the city is prepared to move forward without those funds, then why has it taken so long to proceed to this point? If you were ready to proceed without the TIGER funds, then why hasn't the city found the funds the past decade to replace the bridges? is it me or is there a serious void in leadership in the city when it comes to setting our spendig priorities?


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 7:04 a.m.

Patricia Lesko seems to be the target here - too bad, and I don't have any connection or allegiance to Ms. Lesko. I can say that every time I cross that bridge I hold my breath like a child passing a cemetery. I don't care who says or does what, fix that critical structure now. Yesterday would not have been too soon. It's a disgrace and a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Stephen Landes

Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 5:19 a.m.

We have a trillion dollar deficit problem courtesy of people of both parties who simply can't say no to a spending bill. I certainly hope the TIGER II grants are dead --- we need to reduce Federal spending NOW. If we have to pay for our own local road out of our own local money then let's dot it: that is what responsible people do. For those who read over the first sentence too quickly it is a TRILLION dollar problem caused by both parties and by the voters who let or urge their Congressmen to vote for borrowing this much money from China.


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 2:49 a.m.

1. Don't shoot the messenger. 2. This entire project is inept and ten years too late. Don't blame the current folks dealing with the mess. 3. Scrap it. Remove the bridges. Build flat land-based intersections. Yes, this will mean going back to the Ann Arbor Railroad to get them to approve the easement rather than blocking it and insisting on an overpass for an intersection that has no more than one to two trains per day, and those at 4 am and 7:40 am. But it will be something we can afford, and will take a few months, not a few years. 4. Make better decisions when you vote and quit re-electing inefficient leaders.

Tom Teague

Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

Agree with SemperFi - The first time a single slow train blocked both State and Stadium, I think a whole lot of people would miss the bridges.


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

You think that rebuilding Stadium Blvd for 1/4 to 12 mile in each direction will be less expensive than replacing the bridge? IDK about that. It would only take one major traffic accident at that busy crossing to inspire a lawsuit against the city planners to wipe out any savings from building a gated crossing.


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 1:13 a.m.

I know how the feds can pay for this. Take the 15th congressional districts portion of money funding a silly war in Afghanistan and put that money into our crumbling bridges and infrastructure. Our districts share of the war is over $205 million. We could have a $100 million dollar bridge AND fund nearly 20,000 Pell Grants of $5500. These numbers are just the 15th districts total for 2011. If the right wing nuts of the republican party want to trim $60 billion off the deficit, I can do it tomorrow. Bring all troops home tomorrow. The budget for the Afghanistan war alone is over $107 BILLION. Egypt, Tunsenia, and Libya are proof that invasions aren't necessary. Education, facebook and twitter have done more for freedom than any US soldier.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 11:52 p.m.

Wait, shouldn't the UM be paying a good portion of this as it services their prize facility &quot;The Stadium&quot; for which the road got its namesake anyway? Comeon, fair is fair. Ante up Michigan.


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 6:18 p.m.

If they pay for that bridge then isn't it tax incentive and they own that road and do not have to pay taxes for it? Another piece of property you don't have to tax. Interesting. I love it.

average joe

Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 2:54 a.m.

Johnnya2- I don't necessarily agree with Andy J. concerning bridge funding, but all of these public entities you named are &quot;public services&quot;. The U/M is not. And they continue to purchase property and remove the property tax income that these same public services in part depend on for their operating funds. It isn't a &quot;stupid argument&quot;


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 1 a.m.

Since the UM is actually a STATE school, the state and federal funds will be paying for it no matter who pays. This is that stupid argument about the U not paying property taxes. Should city hall, the police department, every fire station, the Secretary of State office, the county jail pay property tax? The fact is, the road is a PUBLIC road should be funded as such

Lifelong A2

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 11:23 p.m.

@David Cahill: TIGER grants are NOT included in the $4 billion in cuts that were approved by the House and which will likely be approved by the Senate. Please stop linking to or even quoting Ms. Lesko's silly blog. By quoting to her, you disrespect the thousands of Ann Arbor voters who said -- quite loudly with their votes -- that Ms. Lesko's frequent lies have no place in politics. Your readers deserve better.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 11:39 p.m.

And you would believe &quot;Betsy Barrett&quot; - whoever the heck she may be?

David Cahill

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 11:11 p.m.

Stupid me - I was under the impression that the Tiger II grant money was actually in the City's bank account. It's not there. So the money is at the mercy of Congress. Today there is another version of the continuing resolution being floated by the House Republicans, with an apparent agreement by the Senate that it will pass and be signed by the president. That resolution is what we should be looking at. It has a lot of cuts in it, including transportation money. Stay tuned.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 10:38 p.m.

There is no reason to plan for contingencies.... C'mon people! This is Ann Arbor.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 10:29 p.m.

Pat Lesko is correct. Time will tell whether or not John Dingell has been &quot;whistling Dixie&quot; all along about the purported Tiger II funding for the bridge. The best thing voters can do is recruit a candidate to run against GOP-turncoat Marcia Higgins, the &quot;Invisible Woman&quot;, on a party ticket. Her performance on City Council as a Fourth Ward representative has been a general disappointment and the Stadium Bridge problem is a product of her inattentiveness.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 11:55 p.m.

Never, ever listen to what a politician says. Only pay attention to what (s)he does. It's like turning the sound off while watching TV.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 10:21 p.m.

The dog and pony show at the Stadium Bridge by Dingell, Hieftje, and the Council Party that blocked traffic and angered motorists last fall was a publicity stunt to promote themselves and boost their vote totals in an upcoming election. They are now putting the best spin on a fiasco that is going to come back and bite them in their respective derrieres once it is clear to the public that the TIGER II funds were a mere pipe dream. Council Party members like Higgins and Teall sat on their hands for 10 years while this bridge deteriorated to the point of being an embarrassing eyesore. Some have suggested that the bridge be re-christened the &quot;Marcia Higgins Bridge&quot; since her inactivity on City Council was such a key factor in its progreesion toward dilapidation.

David Briegel

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 10:20 p.m.

The only convulution is occurring amongst the TeaPublicans. The loudest screamers will be those that voted for that bunch of geniuses! I truly believe that they will overplay their hand and saner voices will prevail.

Peter Jameson

Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 6:20 a.m.

Saner people? You mean people that vote for candidates who run on a platform of giving an already fortunate group of people more money? &quot;WE WANT MORE MONEY!&quot; yells the picketing plumber. What about those poor people that work at your local fast food restaurant? Shouldn't they make the same wages as your average government paper-shuffler? If you don't make enough money, why would you choose that profession? You choose your own destiny!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 10:12 p.m.

Too bad Ms. Lesko didn't win the primary. I'm certain the situation would be different were she mayor (he says with as much sarcasm as he can muster). Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 10:40 p.m.

Yes, and if Chase Ingersoll would have defeated Jeff Irwin, we would have had true representation in the State House. His third finger actually was made famous by the NY Times.

John B.

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 10:32 p.m.

Indeed! Or, if that rich doctor-dude hadn't been trounced by Dingell in the general election....

Bob Martel

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 10:10 p.m.

The bottom line is no one alive on the planet today knows for sure. The federal legislative process is way to convoluted to be understood by mere mortals (especially on this subject) and projecting an outcome with certainty is silly. I have to agree with cjenkins, Ryan, while A2Politico does serve a useful purpose in our online media eco-system, the way you presented it's unsubstantiated pronouncement about the bridge funds gave that assertion too much undeserved credibility.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 11:53 p.m.

Mr Martel I'm sure there are a few posters here on that know for sure. At least they think they do.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 9:59 p.m.

@Patricia Lesko — I think we're going a couple steps too far to say the grants have been lost. The House Continuing Resolution has not become law. As stated in the story, the city intends to operate under the assumption and along the timeline that it will keep the grant and must jump through those hoops. We shall see how this all plays out.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 9:57 p.m.

It's not &quot;up to the Senate.&quot; It's up to the House, the Senate, and the President and there's a lot of potential horse-trading left. If the House passes one bill and the Senate passes a different bill, then the two bills have to be reconciled, which means horse-trading which could go either way. Once a bill passes, the president can veto it. If the House and Senate can't override it, then there's more horse-trading to pass a new bill.


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 9:53 p.m.

Actually, Ms. Lesko, you have missed the point. The money is not gone until the government sends notice that it is gone. It looks to me like everything is continuing on like it should until a final decision is made. If the feds take the money away it is no fault of any of our local elected officials. If that actually happens, I am sure the city will revert back to the original plan of paying for the bridge out of the road funds. Furthermore, as a resident, I would find it highly irresponsible to jump the gun and have the city fork over 17 million dollars because we can't wait a few months. Ms. Lesko, it is not helpful to continuously cry &quot;the sky is falling&quot; every time our bureaucratic government has a hiccup. You need to let the governmental process play out before inciting panic. These scare tactics of yours where you try to constantly incite the public have grown tiresome and boring and scream of sour grapes. Annarbor,com and Ryan why do you even bother referencing her blog when everyone knows it is not reliable, factual or credible. It should just be ignored.


Wed, Mar 2, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

I believe Ryan continues to reference Ms. Lesko and her blog to allow her to publicly sink deeper in her own deceit. The broader audience she has, the more people will understand her embittered motivations. Or so the theory might go.

Patricia Lesko

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

Ryan, you missed the part where, in your last piece, Hieftje and Pirooz made no mention of the loss of the grants. Oops. What happened there? Three days after the House killed the Tiger II program, John Hieftje is nattering on about &quot;jumping through hoops...&quot; to get the money and that's why everything is going slowly? John Dingell assured him? Connecticut's U.S. SENATOR, Richard Blumenthal, when asked about the loss of TIGER II money for Bridgeport, CT gave no such sunny assurances. It's not up to House; it's now up to the U.S. Senate, where, the last time I looked, John Dingell does not have a seat.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 10:57 p.m.

Mr. Ingersoll was running for the state legislature on teapartyist credentials. If you somehow think that from that position and with those credentials he was going to solve this problem . . . well . . . if I finish this sentence, it likely will get censored. So I'll leave it at that. Good Night and Good Luck


Tue, Mar 1, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

Pat, your words may prove prophetic as a Cassandra-like utterance. Dingell and his posse have led us down the proverbial primrose path. Where have you gone Chase Ingersoll? A2 turns its lonely eyes to you. Whoa whoa whoa.