Mayor Heartwell and guests, on behalf of President Barack Obama and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, I would like to congratulate you.
I came to Grand Rapids because the renovation and expansion of this bus facility embodies so much of what President Obama is working to achieve with the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.
First and foremost, it will create 50 jobs right now. That’s 50 families that don’t need to fret where the rent is coming from and don’t need to worry where the food money is coming from. That’s 50 families making car payments and having the money to buy school clothes.
This project, just like the Recovery Act itself, is about more than just creating jobs. It’s about putting people to work on projects that improve the lives of a great many more citizens.
The Rapid is a great resource for Grand Rapids and the surrounding cities. It provides mobility for everyone – to work, to school, to church, to shopping. It helps folks pay less for gasoline. It helps families with two workers get along with just one car.
This is a transit service that is growing. Ridership has more than doubled in just 10 years with more than 8 million trips made just last year – the highest number ever.
It’s an incredible success story, and this new facility is helping the Rapid handle that growth. It will not just accommodate the extra buses that the Rapid has already put on the road, but it will be large enough to accommodate growth for decades to come.
Like I said, this project is about more than just creating jobs; it’s about improving the quality of life for everyone.
I also came to Grand Rapids to witness the leadership this community demonstrates when it comes to green buildings.
Cities like New York and San Francisco like to pat themselves on the back for their dedication and accomplishments relating to environmentally-friendly work. But the reality is that nearly one out of every five Green buildings in the entire United States is right here in Grand Rapids.
Bus facilities can be dirty places. But through the leadership here at the Rapid, you are finding a way to build this facility to achieve LEED silver certification.
You know, when I told some of my colleagues that I was coming to dedicate a LEED silver certified bus garage, one of them commented – “that’s not just hugging the trees, that’s chewing on the bark.”
You know, the whole issue of deploying green buildings is really starting to catch on across the country. People are realizing that it’s not just about leaving our children with a cleaner environment; it’s about lowering the burden of taxpayers to pay the energy costs and heating cost of these buildings.
That may be a new concept in America, but it’s certainly not a new concept in Grand Rapids. This community has led the way - and this new facility is just one more example.
Public transportation is also at the center of President Obama’s efforts to lower our dependence on foreign oil.
When it comes to the Obama Administration showing its commitment to people that ride the bus, you don’t have to look any farther than the Recovery Act.
When I was first appointed by the President, and then confirmed by the Senate, we were facing a crisis in my agency. The President had just delivered an 80 percent boost in funding, but putting that money to work was subject to a very tight deadline. We had to have each and every grantee obligate at least half their money by September 1, 2009.
When I first walked into the building, we worried about our ability to meet that goal.
Our worries were misplaced. As we began to really work with agencies like the Rapid, we found that there were plenty of opportunities to put that money to work right away – and create jobs right away. That engine is still running, and it’s creating more jobs.
By the time September 1st rolled around, we weren’t 50 percent obligated – we were more like 80 percent obligated. And now, we are more than 90 percent obligated.
For this project, my agency has committed more than $20 million. And almost $12 million of that money came directly from the Recovery Act.
We are going to get this facility built two years ahead of schedule.
That means more jobs now. That means getting the job done at a lower cost to the taxpayer. That means improving the quality of life sooner for the entire Grand Rapids community.
And that is what President Obama’s Recovery Act is all about.
Thank you for letting me be part of this celebration