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New transit system linking GR to Holland in the works

By Nina DeSarro/WZZM-TV • Mar 8, 2019 at 7:00 AM

GRAND RAPIDS — The drive between Holland and Grand Rapids can be tough, especially in the winter months. But local leaders are considering a plan that would allow you to park, ride and relax.

It would be a new daily commuter route between Grand Rapids and Holland with multiple stops along the way. It could be dedicated buses or maybe a train.

City leaders met Thursday to discuss the viability of the project.

"The bottom line is, our roads will never be big enough and this project is about building a better, smarter, long-term mobility solution for our future," Hudsonville City Manager Patrick Waterman said.

It's called the West Michigan Express, traveling from Grand Rapids to Holland using the Chicago Drive corridor. "With potential for transit stops along the way in the communities of Zeeland, Hudsonville and Grandville to begin," Waterman said.

The idea is modeled after the Holland-to-Grand Rapids Interurban rail system that operated in the early 1900s.

"Yet, despite the tremendous success of this rail line, the system eventually gave way to personal automobiles, a trend that has lasted a hundred years," Waterman said.

The project is centered around the commuter, reducing traffic, freeing up parking and appealing to those without vehicles.

"It's bus or train,” Waterman said. “We're looking at both options.”

The corridor between Grand Rapids and Holland is the most heavily traveled work stretch in the region. It services nearly 28,000 commuters every day.

"About two-thirds coming into the city and about a third going out to the west," Waterman said.

The idea is to begin with an existing transit system rather than building a new transit authority from scratch.

"We are not talking about any millages at this point,” Waterman said. “This is something that we're going to be looking to the private sector to fund. It just happens that a public sector group is leading the initiative on it.”

If all goes according to plan, the transit system could be up and running by the end of 2020, with the potential for future stops in cities like Rockford and Lowell along the way.

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