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'A bold vision': Historic $5 billion statewide infrastructure bill becomes law

Governor Whitmer made it official in Grand Rapids Wednesday
Governor Gretchen Whitmer Signs Building Michigan Together Infrastructure Bill
Posted at 4:03 PM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 22:20:49-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer put pen to paper in Grand Rapids Wednesday, signing the Building Michigan Together bill into law. It's a $5 billion bipartisan infrastructure plan — one of the largest ever in Michigan's history.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle convened at Linear Restaurant in northwest Grand Rapids for the historic moment.

“This is a bipartisan plan that truly is fiscally responsible and will make some of the largest infrastructure investments in our state’s history, at a time when we need that more than ever," Whitmer said, addressing the room, "building on work that we have been doing to fix our roads and upgrade pipes and dams and so much more.”

RELATED: Gov. Whitmer to sign 'Building Michigan Together' legislation into law in Grand Rapids

The $5 billion plan will allocate $2 billion toward critical water infrastructure, which is the single largest such investment in the state's history, and 15 times what the state typically spends in a year in that area specifically.

The other major contributions will be made to benefit transportation infrastructure ($645 million), state parks ($450 million) and high-speed internet ($250 million).

There are also several housing and unemployment investments embedded within this piece of legislation.

As a result, the plan will initiate dozens of statewide projects. In West Michigan alone, she said there are 19 projects planned that will support 1,400 jobs over the next few years.

On Wednesday, Whitmer celebrated the bipartisan work that made this all possible.

“So once again, we’ve proving that, in Michigan, Republicans and Democrats can come together to get things done," she said. "If we keep the needs of the people of our state front and center in all of our work, we’re going to be able to continue this momentum and get a lot more done. Even in tough times, we have shared challenges and priorities. We can be a model for the rest of the country to look to how things are moving forward, with our grit and determination and bipartisanship.”

In addition to the statewide benefits, Whitmer also talked about the work that will be done locally in Grand Rapids. The city will receive a healthy chunk of that funding, with $55 million going toward the Grand River Greenway project.

That's something she, and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, are very excited about.

“This investment will help change the trajectory of our community," Bliss said Wednesday.

The project will add 36 miles of new trails along the river, as well as preserve 9,000 acres of public land connecting neighborhoods, small businesses and people in downtown.

Whitmer said, “It’s a very cool project. It is a bold vision to expand accessibility to the riverfront green space of Grand Rapids, one of our fastest-growing cities.”

A better greenway means more green for the economy, Whitmer said, with $17 million expected in recreation spending, plus $420 million in private investments to build more houses along the river.

This is a vision more than a decade in the making — one that might've taken 20 years to complete, but Bliss said they now aim to get it done in five years.

Beyond the greenway project, there's also a $325 million focus on replacing lead service lines in our state. That includes all of the lines in Benton Harbor.

READ MORE: 'Slow, extremely slow': Advocates push to keep Benton Harbor water line replacements on track

Since September 2021, residents there have been told to use bottled water after high lead levels were detected in the city's drinking water.

Shortly after that news broke, Whitmer announced a plan to replace every single lead service line in the city by summer 2023.

According to data from city officials, there are roughly 4,300 service lines in Benton Harbor that might contain lead. So far, 756 have been checked and replaced, leaving 3,600 still to go.

The city said with warmer weather and more contractors signed on, the process will only speed up from here.

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