GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A task force assigned to look into fixing Grand Rapids streets says the City must act now -- but taxpayers may have to foot the bill.
The Sustainable Streets Task Force says 63% of Grand Rapids streets -- about 300 miles-worth -- are in poor condition. Only about 50 miles of the city's 600 miles of streets are considered in good condition.
"It's really urgent," said Chris Reader, a citizen member of the Grand Rapids task force put together to tackle the ailing roads. "At best, we're racing to catch up."
The City says the current condition of roads is embarrassing, but that it's more than an issue of pride. If left is disrepair, the task force says, 94% of roads will be in poor condition within nine years.
To determine that, the City has turned to the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council. The council has outfitted a truck with laser measuring tools, cameras and GPS to get an idea of road conditions.
"This allows us to check the entire roadway surface for all of Grand Rapids -- all of Kent County," explained Darrell Robinson, transportation planner for the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council.
It helps to catch problems before they're potholes, with cameras that can see the smallest cracks in the roads.
"You can see like a dime on the freeway as you're driving 65 miles an hour down the road," said Robinson.
Michigan Street is a prime example of the problem: A bumpily poor excuse of a red carpet from highways to a fast-growing and booming downtown community.
The City Commission appointed the task force to study road conditions and figure out how to pay for improvements.
The City's final goal is to have 70% of all city roads in a "state of good repair" during the next 15 years. It's estimated that would take a $22 million investment.
Gov. Rick Snyder said he intends to focus heavily on Michigan roads in the coming years. In his budget, he asked lawmakers to raise the state gas tax from 19 cents per gallon to 33 cents per gallon to fix aging infrastructure.
On top of that, the Grand Rapids task force recommends a new local investment of $9 million each year.
Task force officials say maintaining the current income tax rate would raise that money.
"No one should see a difference," said Reader.
But to keep income tax at current levels, voters would have to extend the temporary income tax they approved in 2010. Those funds are currently being used to transform public safety and other services into leaner operations.
Acting now is key, the City says: Minor repairs to about 300 miles of not-so-bad roads would cost around $1 million that the City could scrape together. But if we wait, that million would go to just one mile.
"Go drive around your streets and ask yourselves: Is this the future you want for your city? How will we attract investment in our city without investing ourselves?" said Reader.
The task force is also recommending making sidewalk maintenance a City responsibility. Currently, home and business owners are responsible for the sidewalks in front of their property -- but many can't keep up with repairs. The task force said having the City take over will mean better repairs and ease the financial burden on private owners.
The task force will be seeking community input through focus groups and input session. Dates for those meetings have not yet been announced.
Police are investigating a report of a home invasion, but say there are inconsistencies.
A Kalamazoo County sheriff's deputy will not face criminal sexual conduct charges.
A candlelight vigil was held Wednesday night for an innocent bystander who was shot and killed in October.