D.C. trip paves way for Mound funding support

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 24, 2017

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The path to funding repairs to a long stretch of Mound Road recently took a turn toward the nation’s capital, according to a progress report from Sterling Heights City Manager Mark Vanderpool.

During a May 3 City Council meeting, Vanderpool said Sterling Heights officials and other regional representatives took a trip to Washington, D.C., May 2 to have some meetings with federal officials, including those from the White House, over funding Mound reconstruction and related infrastructure.

“The meetings were very productive and helped pave the way for the grant submittals over the next year,” Vanderpool said.

The trip was taken as part of a campaign called Innovate Mound that aims to secure a significant amount of funding to pay for an estimated 9 miles’ worth of reconstruction and infrastructure work.

“The city gets a number of inquiries regarding the poor condition of Mound Road,” he said. “You’ve all traveled Mound. You all know the condition of Mound, and if you’re like all of us, you’re not happy with it.”

The group reportedly spoke to Michigan congressmen Democrat Sander Levin and Republican Paul Mitchell, as well as Michigan’s two U.S. senators, Democrats Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow.

City officials consider Mound to be a major business and industrial corridor in the county and region. They say it’s been more than two decades since Mound has undergone serious reconstruction.

But Vanderpool explained that Sterling Heights does not have jurisdiction over Mound, and as such it is the county’s responsibility.

Last October, the Sterling Heights City Council allocated $50,000 toward a grant-seeking initiative with Warren and Macomb County to reconstruct Mound. Engineering firm Hubbell, Roth & Clark and grant-writing firm Hanka Advisor LLC were expected to be tapped for their expertise.

Since then, the hope of fixing Mound has driven Sterling Heights to seek additional alliances through an organization called Innovate Mound, which was launched last December. Innovate Mound’s executive committee includes representatives from the auto and defense industries.

According to Vanderpool, their plan is for reconstruction and improvements on Mound from I-696 to M-59. Besides a fresh roadway, the campaign would add a pedestrian crossing at Metropolitan Parkway, as well as one by the General Motors Technical Center in Warren.

Proposed ancillary improvements would involve sidewalks, landscaping, lighting, signage and “smart stree” technology that includes traffic speed monitoring.

But the plans won’t be cheap, according to Vanderpool. The upgrades and renovations are expected to cost around $217 million. Last October, Vanderpool estimated that the project would exceed $100 million.

The Mound campaign is seeking three major federal grants: the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies grant, or FASTLANE; a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant, or TIGER; and a Defense Access Road grant.

According to Vanderpool, federal grants would still require the cities to chip in with matching funds. But should the funding be in place within the next two years, organizers hope to start the major reconstruction work quickly after.

As a stopgap measure, Macomb County plans to continue periodic repair work on Mound in an effort to stave off further deterioration, Vanderpool explained.

“These are short-term fixes. They’re not long-term solutions,” he added. “We have to get the funding for the complete reconstruct to solve the long-term problem, but most importantly, to have a roadway system and the entire corridor for which we can all be very proud of.”

In a statement, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said he is happy with the city representatives teaming up with local businesses to pursue the funds.

“Our representation as a united front is critical to the success of this project moving forward,” he said. “We have all the right elements in order, and it is now time to build our personal relationships.”

Find out more about Innovate Mound by visiting innovatemound.org.