With a 5-2 vote, the Adrian City Commission approved Downtown Development Authority and Economic Development Coordinator Chris Miller to apply for the U.S. Department of Transportation / Federal Highway Administration Autonomous Vehicle Project. This grant would provide $2 million to fund two autonomous busses that would potentially run two routes in the city. One route would cover the east portion of the city including Siena Heights University, while the other would cover the west portion of the city including Adrian College. The routes would stop at fixed bus stops along the route and would meet in downtown Adrian to allow an exchanging of passengers.
The grant is not dependent on the company providing the bus, however the city is currently working with EasyMile North America, headquartered in Denver. The busses which would be able to transport 6 seated passengers and 6 standing passengers, are also equipped with a ramp for disabled passengers. For this project, the city has approved a grant match of $200,000 to incentivize the grant application. Included in the application are letters of support from the University of Michigan Ford School for Public Policy, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and the Michigan Department of Transportation.
The two “no” votes came from commissioners Allen Heldt and Brad Watson. Both commissioners’ objections were over the speculative nature of the project and the short notice to render a decision.
“I look at it like, personally would I make a decision like this with my own money?” Heldt said. “And the answer is no. If it was my own money I would not be this quick to make that kind of commitment to this resource.”
Commissioner Kirk Valentine agreed the pitch was “speculative.”
“Is it speculative? Yeah,” said Valentine. “Do I hate to speculate with taxpayer money? No, I don’t, it makes me very uncomfortable. But sometimes you just have to try some things.”