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Important Information

Ensuring the safety of our roadways is a top priority for transportation authorities and community leaders alike. To further this objective, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) implements safety improvement programs to address concerns related to high-crash intersections and roads. MDOT allocates significant resources to enhance road safety through various funding programs with a comprehensive plan designed to identify, prioritize, and implement safety improvements across the state’s transportation infrastructure.

What are my options?

The Michigan Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) is a core Federal-aid program with the goal of achieving a significant reduction in traffic fatalities and serious injuries on all public roads, including those that are non-State-owned or on tribal land. Any agency wishing to submit an improvement project is encouraged to apply for HSIP funds. Examples of these projects could include a horizontal curve delineation, rumble strips, edge line pavement markings, signal backplates, countdown pedestrian signals, or a stop-controlled intersection sign upgrade project. Recently, a bipartisan infrastructure law was implemented to emphasize the importance of vulnerable road user safety as part of the HSIP. This strategic program enables MDOT to allocate resources effectively and prioritize projects that will have the most significant impact on improving safety for all Michigan residents.

The High Risk Rural Roads (HRRR) plan allows for an additional funding source, with applicable locations defined as “any roadway functionally classified as a rural major or minor collector or a rural local road with significant safety risks, as defined by a State in accordance with an updated State strategic highway safety plan.” Any rural roadway with an increasing fatality rate may be considered for this funding opportunity, and selected projects are to be obligated in 2026. A non-selected HRRR project will be automatically considered for general 2026 HSIP safety funds.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Does your agency have confusing intersections that often have crashes?
  • Does that blind spot at the intersection hide pedestrians?
  • Are roadway departures common along some of your curves?
  • Do you have a dark roadway that could benefit from better lighting?
  • Are you simply looking to update an older traffic signal layout to the latest standards?

If you are considering any of these improvements, then your community may qualify for safety funding through this grant process. Prein&Newhof is qualified and happy to assist with determining the area of need, applying for funding, and improving the safety of roadways for all users by maximizing this opportunity of available federal funds.

What are my next steps?

These funding opportunities require applications to be prepared in March so that applicable candidates can obtain Letters of Support in time for the submittal deadline at the end of April. Prein&Newhof can assist you by reviewing and assessing whether a particular intersection or road qualifies as a strong candidate for MDOT safety funding. With a focus on vulnerable users, as well as specific locations with high crash rates, we can determine locations that may be approved for funding to address and improve public safety concerns.

Together, we can proactively face these safety challenges by initiating a comprehensive review of your roadways, identifying opportunities for improvement, and positioning your projects for MDOT safety funding!

Call Connie Houk, PE or Scott Tezak, PE at 231-468-3456 to learn more about how these MDOT funding opportunities can benefit your community.

Many of our clients have successfully implemented their parks and recreation projects with the help of 27 different grant programs from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). Our most common success stories have utilized the Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Recreation Passport Grant Program, and/or the Land and Water Conservation Fund. For example, the Boardman Lake Trail Loop project (featured above) made use of funding from some of these sources. Each of these funding opportunities has the potential to benefit your community!

So… tell me more!

The Natural Resources Trust Fund obtains finances from the development of state-owned, profitable resources. Applications are accepted from communities seeking to acquire land for the conservation of natural resources, which can include many opportunities from public facilities to trails. Matching funds are typically a requirement, and other deciding factors include financial need and regional significance. Before applying, the community also needs an established five-year recreation plan approved by the MDNR by February 1st. This master plan takes inventory of a community’s assets and rates their accessibility while gathering public input and developing goals, objectives, and a prioritized project plan. This month, the board recommended over 27 million dollars in these acquisition and development grants. The five-year recreation plan has proven to be enormously beneficial to communities in many other ways outside of just funding applications.

The Recreation Passport Grant Program is another excellent opportunity to fund parks and recreation projects. You’ve likely noticed that when you renew your driver’s license each year, you have the option to add the annual “recreation pass” for a low cost. You may know that this checkbox allows you to enter any state park without additional payment, but do you know where that money goes? It goes right back into your community’s recreation facilities. In addition to establishing new amenities, facilities that have been loved and used beyond their “useful life expectancy” are invited to be restored with this grant. Renovated facilities could include kayak launches, splash pads, restrooms, drinking fountains, pickleball and other sport courts, or pavilions. This month, it was announced that nearly $2 million in Recreation Passport grants were awarded for these park and trail improvements and developments. To be eligible for this program, a community must either have an approved five-year recreation plan on file by February 1st or submit a capital improvement plan with their application.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) provides matching grants to states and local governments for the acquisition and development of public land. According to the LWCF Act of 1964, this fund was created to “assist in preserving, developing, and assuring accessibility of all citizens of present and future generations… such quality and quantity of outdoor recreation resources as may be available and are necessary and desirable for individual active participation.” Examples of suitable projects can include land that provides access to water-based recreation opportunities, nature preserves of biological importance, or land within urban areas for day-use parks and recreation. To be eligible for this program, a community must also have an approved five-year recreation plan on file by February 1st and hold a public meeting to receive input on the grant application.

How can I get involved?

The MDNR is committed to providing Michigan residents with the opportunity to share input and ideas on policy decisions, programs, and other aspects of local natural resource management and outdoor recreation opportunities. One important avenue for input is at public meetings such as the Michigan State Parks Advisory Council or the Trails Advisory Council. To see these public meetings and more, you can check the DNR boards, commissions, committees, and councils web page for updates.

The MDNR is also conducting a survey about your experiences at Michigan state parks over the past year. The survey takes about ten minutes to complete and helps with planning future park improvements!

Need assistance with your grant submittals or want to begin preparing a plan for the following year? Call Matt Levandoski, PLA at 616-364-0200.

On Tuesday, July 6, 2021, Prein&Newhof Project Manager Scott Post, PE joined Ottawa County Parks at Connor Bayou Park in Grand Haven to hear Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement: The Governor plans to allocate $150 million of the state’s American Rescue Plan to fund local parks, trails, and recreation facilities. If approved by the legislature later this year, the money will be administered as a grant program by Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). Last month, Governor Whitmer announced a similar proposal to invest $250 million of the state’s American Rescue Plan in parks and trails managed by the state. Bringing the total proposed investment in Michigan’s local and state run parks, trails and recreation facilities to $400 million.

The event was held at Connor Bayou Park on the Idema Explorers Trail. Prein&Newhof is currently designing 2.34 miles of the Idema Explorers Trail that will run along Green Street, from 144th Avenue to Connor Bayou Park at North Cedar Drive. This missing piece is known as the Stearns Bayou section of the Idema Explorers Trail.


Post explains the importance of the new trail to the area, “The Stearns Bayou section will finally close the loop between Grand Haven’s trail network and Spring Lake’s trail system—connecting downtown Grand Haven to Spoonville Trail and North Bank Trail.”

The Stearns Bayou project will include 10-ft.-wide paved, non-motorized pathway along Green Street. Plans call to widen the 450-foot-long existing bridge over Stearns Bayou to include a 14-foot-wide bike lane. The current project estimate cost is $3.5 million. As a local agency project, a portion of the project will be funded by the Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) Grant. Construction is expected in 2022.

When complete, the 30-mile-long Idema Explorers Trail will connect the Greater Grand Rapids area (Millennium Park) to the Grand Haven/Spring Lake lakeshore area.

By Scott Post, PE

In my last post, I talked about where to find money for a non-motorized trail project. Here are nine ways you can help your project compete for grants:

  1. Have a written recreation plan, and designate non-motorized trails as your #1 priority.
  2. Commit as high a matching fund percentage as possible. Put a matching funds line item in your annual budget, so you can stockpile cash and react to an opportunity. Better yet, propose a millage for trails or parks. Many communities have discovered their constituents easily pass these millages.
  3. Provide connections to existing trails and trail networks, locally and especially regionally.
  4. Connect existing parks and schools together and with commercial and residential areas.
  5. Provide handicapped accessibility.
  6. Provide fishing or wildlife viewing opportunities.
  7. Have preliminary design completed and ready to go when funds become available. Your project doesn’t need to be “shovel ready”, but if preliminary design is complete it can easily be finished to the particular requirements of any grant program. If not, at least have a good cost estimate ready so you do not request too little grant funding.
  8. Develop your operations and maintenance plan and budget before building your trail or applying for grants. This shows funders your commitment to being a good steward of their money.
  9. Develop a “Friends of the Trail” group. This shows community support, commitment, and organization. “Friends” groups are typically official non-profit entities. This way private donations to your trail project are tax deductible!

Scott Post is a board member at the West Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition. He has designed nearly 150 miles of non-motorized trails in Michigan.

By Scott Post, PE

Whenever I meet with a new non-motorized trails group or client, one of the first questions I am asked is, “Where can we get grants to pay for our trail?” If your group or community is planning a non-motorized trail, check out my seven favorite trail funding sources:

  1. Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund (For example, Cannon trail)
    Grants a maximum of $300,000 per project. Applications are due April 1 each year.
  2. MDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) (For example, Fred Meijer CIS Trail between Ionia and Owosso)
    Emphasizes regional trail connectivity.
  3. MDOT’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program (For example, Blue Star Trail)
    Can be used if your community is in a non-attainment zone for air quality. Trails can be constructed to provide access for alternative modes of transportation.
  4. Recreation or trails millages (For example, Spring Lake Township)
    Many communities have successfully passed trail millages to use for the development and maintenance of trail projects.
  5. Benefactors and Foundations (For example, Greenville Trail)
    Often local corporations in your community may see this as an opportunity to give back.
  6. Fund Drives (For examples, Big Rapids’ Access for All for the Riverwalk)
    Many local organizations will assist with fundraising for community projects that they support.
  7. MDOT’s Safe Routes to School program (For example, Allegan’s Monroe Street)
    Safe Routes to School funding will require a community non-motorized plan and the adoption of a Complete Streets ordinance.


Scott Post is a board member at the West Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition. He has designed nearly 150 miles of non-motorized trails in Michigan.

By Jim Hegarty, PE

1. Dream Big

When I was a young engineer, one of my mentors told me this: “There’s no such thing as a money problem, only idea problems.”

In other words…“Good ideas attract money.”

I like to ask my public-sector clients what they would do if money were no object. To start, I have them make a wish list. Write everything down. Everything they want to accomplish for their community.

Why? It is easier to find money on purpose than to rely on luck. It surprises me how many communities react to, rather than plan for, funding opportunities or announcements. When funding becomes available, the first recipients are largely those whose projects were shovel-ready.

Planned. Designed. Ready to go. Defeatists don’t win grants. Visualize the things you want to happen, so when opportunity knocks, your projects are planned, designed, and ready to go.


Gather your staff and community leaders and start dreaming. What would you do if you had the money to do it? Write it down. Everything you can think of. In my next posts, I will suggest some ideas to help you bring your dreams to reality.


2. Network

Pick any project on your wish list—where will you find enough money to make it happen? Look to your network. No, I do not mean ask them for money! They are, however, a key link between you and money. Key people in your network might include:

  • Engineers
  • Planners
  • Attorneys
  • Financial Advisers
  • Peers in other communities
  • Associations (MML, MTA, MLGMA, etc.)

Describe what you want to do, and ask them if they know where you can find favorable financing or a grant. Chances are several of them can point you in the right direction. For smaller projects you might be able to get seed money from local service clubs and charitable or community foundations.

In addition, do not forget your digital resources:


3. Make Your Pitch!

Once you have identified your project and found a prospective funding source, it is time to make your pitch! Usually, this means writing a grant or funding proposal. Every organization has its own proposal format and scoring system. Here are eight key items to include somewhere in your proposal:

  1. Succinctly summarize your proposal in one paragraph or less—it is your headline!
  2. Provide information on how you will manage the grant. Show them that you have managed similar grants before and that their money will be in good hands.
  3. Tailor how you describe your need/project/activity in a way that matches the scoring criteria and the funding program’s objectives.
  4. Outline your work plan and project cost. The more detail you have, the better.
  5. Identify your source(s) of “matching” money. You need “skin in the game” for most grants.
  6. Outline your plan to maintain any physical assets once the funding is gone.
  7. Explain future project phases, if applicable.
  8. Get your grant before you write the proposal!

Item #8 bears some explanation. Before you write any funding proposal, engage the funding organization in a discussion about your project/proposal. Invite them to meet with you. Get their advice and feedback. Moreover, since developing a funding application is time-consuming and expensive, ask them if your project is a good candidate for funding before you begin the application process.


4. Improve your chances for success!

I am convinced that preparation begets luck. I have found when my clients focus on these four things it greatly enhances their chances for funding success:

  • Shovel-readiness: The better defined your project is by the time you apply for funding, the greater your chances for success. You at least should have a well-developed cost estimate and work plan. Preliminary studies, plans or sketches are nice, but completed design plans are better. Better still—have all your regulatory permits in-hand.
  • “Skin”: If you are not willing to bet your own money on a project, why would anyone else? The more you can come up with, the better you will do. Some communities even have “matching funds” as a line item in their annual budgets, so they can take advantage of unexpected opportunities.
  • Collaboration: Many funders like to see multi-party partnerships. It helps them leverage their own good will, and it shows them you have gathered strong support. If you do not have project partners, at least get support letters from other groups and communities.
  • Political Support: You should gather support letters from elected representatives and ask them to promote your project to funding agencies. Be careful, however, not to overstep an agency’s funding process.

You can find more resources in Prein&Newhof’s Grants and Loans Guide.

Happy hunting!