March 18 2013 12:00 AM

City lands federal transportation grant to make Washington Avenue in REO Town more attractive

Wednesday, Aug. 17 — The city of Lansing announced today a $326,100 grant from the federal Department of Transportation that will go toward enhancing Washington Avenue through REO Town.

“Along with the enhanced environment, it’s going to be very attractive for new private investment (in REO Town),” said Randy Hannan, executive assistant to Mayor Virg Bernero. “We struggled for a long time to get REO Town back on its feet.”

The grant is on top of another $1.18 million in federal Surface Transportation Program money for the plan. The project is estimated to cost $2.1 million, which means the city will end up paying for about $600,000 in improvements.

Andy Kilpatrick, transportation engineer with the city, said that money will come out of the city’s Public Services Department budget. The $600,000 is Act 51 money, he said, which is state transportation revenue that is allocated to local communities.

Kilpatrick said construction is slated to begin in 2012. The project covers 3/4 of a mile of Washington Avenue between Malcolm X Street and Barnes Avenue.

City officials held two planning sessions in March with REO Town business owners and residents to brainstorm how a renovation might look. Some of the ideas that will come to fruition include wider sidewalks, medians with landscaping, pedestrian crossings and bicycle lanes. Kilpatrick said design plans will be finalized in the next couple weeks.

City and Lansing Board of Water & Light officials say this stretch of Washington Avenue is poised to become a main thoroughfare once the BWL’s planned $182 million cogeneration facility in the neighborhood is built.

“This is great news for REO Town, which is poised for tremendous economic rebirth,” BWL General Manager J. Peter Lark said today in a statement. “A new, welcoming Washington Avenue streetscape will serve as a gateway to our REO Town project that promises to bring more than 1,000 construction jobs and nearly 200 permanent jobs to this historic community."