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Nearly $200M federal grant accelerates high speed rail in Metro Detroit

Metro Detroit and Michigan's high speed rail system moved into the fast lane this week with the announcement of nearly $200 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve lines from Dearborn to Kalamazoo.

The grant goes toward the purchase of tracks, signals and other rail infrastructure that will address congestion points and separate rail and freight trains -- currently the reason train travel is slower than ideal. The changes will allow trains to travel up to 110-mph along certain portions of the line. This will also decrease the travel time between Chicago and Detroit by one hour on what is known as the Amtrak Wolverine line. The 135-mile-long corridor will receive $196.5 million in funding while a separate $2.8 million will pay for a new train and bus station in Ann Arbor to serve Amtrak and other local transit providers.

Michigan will also receive funding to purchase the latest in locomotives and coaches as part of a joint application with Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri. The new cars will be added to Amtrak's Wolverine, Blue Water, and Pere Marquette lines.

The projects are expected to start next year and be completed by 2013 or 2014. Once the new rail network is built, Michigan workers and residents will have greater access to high speed rail than most states. According to the Michigan Municipal League, 69 percent of Michigan residents and 71 percent of employers would be within 15 miles of a station, including Pontiac, Detroit, Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Jackson, Albion, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek.

The announcement comes at a time when ridership on the trains is rising substantially, an illustration that high speed rail is desired by Americans and will be a part of American life across the nation, as Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said during the accelerated high rail funding announcement in Detroit Monday.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and other transportation advocates say the high speed rail projects will mean jobs and economic development, but critics complain that Michigan is not a high speed rail or mass transit kind of market and the money is a waste.

"Accelerated rail service has the ability to enhance our economy, environment and overall quality of life," Gov. Snyder said in a statement. "An investment of this magnitude can spur economic development in our communities with rail stations, and provide access to a 21st century rail system that will help Michigan citizens compete in a global economy. Reliable, fast train service is attractive to businesses that want to locate or expand near it. This investment in our rail system is critical to Michigan's recovery."

Michigan Municipal League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin says the funding caps many years of working in unison.

"Here in Michigan, we have been fortunate enough to have strong bi-partisan support for high-speed rail. Our political leaders on both sides of the aisle fully understand how important this money is to creating jobs, increasing affordable transportation options, and jump-starting our economy."

Source: Sara Wurfel, spokesperson for Gov. Rick Snyder; Dan Gilmartin, executive director, Michigan Municipal League
Writer: Kim North Shine

Virtual 8 Mile shows sky-high views of the 3D street-level

Technology and marketing are converging in a push to promote business, transportation, and commercial development along 8 Mile.

If Virtual 8 Mile, an application developed by the Eight Mile Boulevard Association and Plymouth-based Luna Tech Designs, goes as planned the 27-mile corridor can be viewed on a 3D virtual interface using Google Earth.

Ideally, visitors to the site can zoom in on member businesses, which also will get Google priority listings during searches for businesses of their type.

The $5,000 in funding for the application came from the Michigan Dept of Transportation.

Virtual 8 Mile will also show visitors development possibilities and real estate opportunities, including details and photos of available land and property, along the stretch of road that cuts through Wayne and Oakland counties.

In addition, the site shows improvement projects, including facade renovations and median gardens, and public transportation routes and other information that can make patronizing a business or starting one easier.

For a business such as the Belmont Shopping Center, which now is viewable by visitors, "it is another way to promote an existing tenant mix and is also a business attraction tool for vacancies," says Tami Salisbury, executive director of the 8 Mile Boulevard Association.

The 13 communities bordering the Eight Mile corridor, which spans Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, stand to gain from increased exposure, Salisbury says.

"It really is a snapshot of 8 Mile, what's going on there and the potential that is there," Salisbury says.

In a larger sense, she says, the project helps the association in its mission to change the reputation, accurate or not, that 8 Mile Road is a has-been.

"It's equally as important to change the mental landscape as it is to change the physical landscape," Salisbury says. "We are changing mental perceptions people have of 8 Mile by showing them these physical transformations."

Source: Tami Salisbury, executive director, Eight Mile Boulevard Association
Writer: Kim North Shine

SMART bike rack grant helps Berkley promote cycling

A $2,000 grant from the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) will pay for at least six additional bike racks and contribute to a larger plan by the city of Berkley to put its residents and workers on two wheels. About a dozen bike racks are currently in place in the city.

"It's something we're seeing more of, and we want to see even more of," says Tom Colwell, facility manager and parks and recreation director for the city of Berkley.

The racks will be installed by July, Colwell says, and will be similar in style to existing ones.

Also this summer, the city is launching a bike riding program, and is in the midst of a project to make its roads safer for bikers, perhaps by adding cycling lanes, he says.

"The bike rack program with SMART is really in line with what we're trying to do," Colwell says.

The idea behind the grant is to help residents get around town without cars. SMART buses have bike racks for riders as well.

"Ultimately we're going to put some of the racks closer to bus shelters and around town," Colwell says. "What we want to promote is people not driving their own cars everywhere, but getting around by biking…We want to promote a healthier lifestyle."

Source: Tom Colwell, facility manager and parks and recreation director, city of Berkley
Writer: Kim North Shine

Case for Detroit light rail grows with $25M federal grant, 23% growth in Amtrak ridership

A system of regional mass transit in southeast Michigan has moved further down the track thanks to a $25 million federal grant and an Amtrak ridership survey that shows the number of train commuters continues to increase.

"I believe that southeast Michigan is as close as it has ever been to implementing higher levels of transit," says Carmine Palombo, transportation director for SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. 

He says SEMCOG and the Michigan Department of Transportation "continue moving forward on the commuter rail project from Ann Arbor to Detroit. Amtrak ridership on the Pontiac to Chicago line is up significantly. These are all positive signs that could lead to enhanced transit being in our future in the not too distant future."

The positive prognosis comes after the award of a $25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the building of the Detroit Light Rail Line. The grant comes from the Transportation Investment Generating Recovery - TIGER, a program of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. 

The first phase is the construction of a light rail line that runs 3.4 miles along Woodward and has 12 stations connecting downtown Detroit to Grand Blvd in the New Center area. The second phase would extend the light rail line 5.9 miles from Grand Blvd to 8 Mile Road near the Michigan State fairgrounds.

Separately, according to a report from the Michigan Dept of Transportation (MDOT), Amtrak ridership and ticket revenue increased again.

From October to December, 130,683 passengers took trains on the Pontiac/Detroit-Chicago corridor -- or Wolverine line -- for an increase of 22.7 percent from a year ago. Ticket revenue increased 26 percent to $4,949,889, according to MDOT. Ridership and revenue also increased on the Blue Water train that goes between Port Huron and East Lansing and the Pere Marquette line between Grand Rapids and Chicago. 

Janet Foran, a spokesperson for MDOT, which helps fund the Pere Marquette and Blue Water lines, says "certainly there is a lot more effort in southeast Michigan to get new projects off to a start, one being the Woodward light rail line…Clearly there is much more defined interest train travel."

Palombo and Foran say, as always, funding will have to follow the interest.

Source: Carmine Palombo, director of transportation for SEMCOG and Janet Foran, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Transportation

Writer: Kim North Shine

Woodward communities form task force to discuss transportation vision

When it comes to public transportation on Woodward north of Eight Mile, the communities are coming together to make sure everyone is on board.

The Woodward Avenue Action Association has formed a task force of officials from Berkley, Birmingham, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, and Royal Oak, to work together on transit vision. At this point, their goal is to get the communities around the table to discuss what they and the others would like to see, says Heather Carmona, WA3's executive director.

The task force,
she explains, is the WA3's response to the community members who were concerned about the lack of consensus about what transit should be north of Eight Mile Road. With the latest news about the Woodward Light Rail receiving funding, there had never really been much discussion about what was needed or wanted north of Detroit, in Oakland County, specifically in the communities along Woodward.

"Our goal was, how can we bring these elected officials to the table?" Carmona poses. "What shape should transit take on Woodward in south Oakland County?"

Melanie Piana, a Ferndale city councilmember and the associate director of Michigan Suburbs Alliance, which is also represented on the task force, says that among her goals after she joined the council in January was building relationships with the other Woodward communities. "I think it's a good thing any time our cities can collaborate on achieving something together," she says. "Since we all share the same corridor, it makes sense for us to strengthen our relationships and share ideas for goals and visions, and how we would like to see our communities grow."

The members are looking at what the communities share along Woodward, what the cities are planning, and how to better connect them. They're trying to stay away from discussing type of transportation and where the stops would be, taking more of a macro view.

They do agree, though, that whatever transit option is put in place won't just end at Eight Mile. "I think it is a natural progression of the hard work our Detroit counterparts have been doing over the last couple of years, and now we can do our hard work to make sure we can connect together," Piana says.

The task force hopes to have a resolution for all the communities to support before the holidays, and then work on a list of goals and objectives.

Sources: Heather Carmona, executive director of the Woodward Avenue Action Association; Melanie Piana, Ferndale city council member
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Lake St. Clair water trail gets grant funding

Paddlers and others who enjoy Lake St. Clair will benefit from a grant to develop a coastal water trail.

The $10,000 grant will give a boost to the Lake St. Clair Tourism Development Program for a kind of "blueway," like a greenway but in the water, for paddlers. The funds are part of a Coastal Community Development grant from Michigan Sea Grant, and are part of a federal program to educate people on issues surrounding coastal areas, as well as the creation of a trail map.

Kristen Grifka, Lake St. Clair tourism development specialist for Macomb County, explains that blueways typically run close to the shore, especially near a lake, and they can be marked. Maps show the blueway route so paddlers can figure out good places to launch, interesting things to see, and safe harbors.

Grifka has found that as boating gets increasingly expensive, more people are turning to kayaks or canoes to get out on the water. "It's gaining in popularity, particularly in the state of Michigan," she says. In fact, the Tip of The Thumb Heritage Water Trail draws people from as far away as Europe, she says.

She's expecting a reconnaissance-type trip next week to travel the shoreline to begin the mapping, and to continue lines of discussion with paddlers and other lake-minded people to be sure they're mapping out the area as well as they can.

"We're very excited," she says. "The thing that I think is very cool about the trail is there are a few people who have a vision for Michigan making a state-wide water trail. This would be a connector between a trail that is planned for the St. Clair river, and the trail already on the Detroit river. It's part of a bigger vision."

The trail will run along the coast of Lake St. Clair, and will be suited for open water kayaking and other paddling sports, much like how the Detroit Heritage River Water Trail, Clinton River Water Trail, and Thumb Water Trail already are.

Source: Kristen Grifka, Lake St. Clair tourism development specialist
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Northville trail will connect city to township

When walkers, runners, and bikers explore a new trail planned for the Northville area, they might just learn a thing or two at the same time.

After two years of planning, Northville Township, the city of Northville, and Wayne County have a plan and funding for the Northville Bennett Arboretum Trailway, a non-motorized trail that will connect the city and township. The path will begin at Verona Lane and Sheldon Road, where the current Northville Township pathway system ends, continue along Sheldon through the Bennett Arboretum, cross into the city, and end near where Sheldon intersects with Seven Mile Road.

Jill Rickard, Northville Township staff engineer and project point person, points out that not only will the trail connect the city to the township, it also provides access to the county and township park and bike system, including the Rouge River and Hines Drive, a popular cycling route. "It does provide some good interaction between the park systems," she says. "The township and city have been trying to connect for years."

The project, funded partially by parks millage funds and a recently-awarded $450,000 Rouge Program Office Grant, will include an elevated boardwalk, block retaining walls with native plantings, and a bridge over Johnson Creek that will allow for accessing educational information about the creek. The boardwalk will provide a viewing platform for a wetland that straddles the city and township lines.

Rickard says the path will also be a good way for visitors to learn about the surrounding areas, and about the green features planned, such as permeable pavement, the benefits of trees, and how native landscaping can prevent erosion. She expects that at least five informational kiosks will be displayed with such information.  "This provides an excellent opportunity for an educational, instructional way of doing that," she says.

She hopes to put the project out to bid in February, begin construction in the spring, and finish by next fall.

Source: Jill Rickard, Northville Township staff engineer
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Chug no more: $150 million for regional high-speed rail

Michigan will be receiving $150 million to help develop a high-speed rail corridor between Kalamazoo and Dearborn.

News came out Monday that the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program will be awarding the money, along with a $3.2 million planning grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Michigan has the existing rail lines from Chicago to Detroit, but is lacking the upgrades to get the trains up to a higher speed.

Although it won't be announced until today as to how the $150 million will be allocated, Carmine Palombo, transportation director for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, says the announcement was great news overall. "Being able to make that sort of investment in that high-speed rail corridor is great," he says.

Among the beneficiaries will be Amtrak and freight rail, but also everyone trying to establish a commuter rail service between Detroit and Ann Arbor, too. One project that was identified as necessary was the connection west of Detroit, where there is consistently a bottleneck between usage of the track by freight and passenger services. Fixing that alone would take about 5-7 minutes off the time between Detroit and Ann Arbor, Palombo says.

"That's a pretty good chunk of time that would be saved as a result of this project," he says.

It was also announced in January that Michigan will be receiving $40 million for train station development.

Source: Carmine Palombo, transportation director for SEMCOG
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Students, staff embrace Oakland U bike share program

A fleet of 60 purple bikes have been carrying students and staff around Oakland University's campus this semester, after the university expanded its bike share program.

Last year, OU tried a pilot bike share program using abandoned or unclaimed bikes, and due to that program's success more students are cruising around campus on the matching bikes. It's not uncommon to see a faculty member riding one, either, says OU's Director of Campus Recreation Greg Jordan.

The two-wheelers are a mix of residents and commuters; residents may use a bike to get from their residence hall to class, but commuters may also have to park relatively far away. "There's a large concentration of bikes in the parking lots, just as many as over in the residence halls," Jordan says.

Among the shifts in culture he's seen so far are an overall increase in bicycle use on campus, meaning resident students are bringing their own to keep on campus, and commuters are bringing theirs on the backs of their vehicle. "Since parking is a challenge on campus, when you're in the parking structure or in a non-central parking lot, people are pulling their bikes off, riding to class and locking them," he says.

Not only do walkers and riders decrease congestion around campus, but the program increases physical fitness. "We're trying to encourage healthy lifestyles, and riding a bike is part of that," he says. "We're trying to improve lifestyle on campus, trying to make parking and getting around campus more enjoyable."

Programs exist on other campuses, some with checkout systems, but Oakland's is free, based on the honor system, and can by used by anyone who spots an available bike. Jordan says the university may consider designated bike lanes in the future.

To learn more about the bike share program, click here.

Source: Greg Jordan, director of campus recreation for Oakland University
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Birmingham upgrades downtown parking garages

Downtown Birmingham's Pierce Street parking garage will soon have a smoother ride up to your car, and be better lit while doing so.

The city plans to install LED lights in the structure's 227 fixtures, replacing old high-pressure sodium bulbs, for a cost of $350,000; $125,000 of that will be federal stimulus money.

Brendan Cousino, assistant city engineer for Birmingham, says he received the final design last week for review, but expects the contract to go out for bid within the next three weeks or so. "The lighting is roughly 25 years old. It's outdated, and we're repairing lights on a regular basis."

He says replacing lights will not only improve the garage's energy savings, but the quality of light in the garage as well. LED lights use a fraction of the electricity of normal bulbs, and they also last several years longer than normal street lights. The city of Birmingham expects to save $18,000 in electricity annually, plus thousands more dollars in maintenance costs.

Also in the Pierce Street parking structure, plans are to replace the elevators this coming summer, first with the elevator at the Brown Street entrance, scheduled to close Oct. 25, and then on the Pierce Street side, scheduled to close in January. The project will run just under $410,000; the elevators currently in place are original to the early 1960s building.

"It's just time," Cousino says. "They've reached the end of their service life."

In another parking structure, the North Old Woodward parking deck, resealing the exterior has been completed, and very smoothly, too, Cousino says, coming in on time and budget. The city added some other work to that job, at the Chester Street parking structure, including replacing some stairs and decking worn down by regular use, for an additional $77,000 or thereabouts to the original $499,000.

And although parking structure maintenance may seem low on the priority list, the interior of a structure is one of the first things a visitor to Birmingham sees, after all. "We hope to maintain a high level of customer service here," Cousino says. "Overall, our goal is to extend the life of these structures as much as possible, and replace as much equipment as possible before it fails."

Source: Brendan Cousino, assistant city engineer for Birmingham
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Downtown Utica wraps up work on park, pedestrian bridge

Much of the work on Utica's hike-and-bike trail and river walk is wrapping up for the season, with the pedestrian bridge soon to come, also.

Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan says the manufacturer ran into a couple of glitches that delayed the project a bit, but the city is still set to take delivery of the bridge by next month. The hike and bike trail is being finished up, installation of the canoe livery is expected to be completed this month, and the riverfront park and the river walk are also scheduled to be about 2/3 done by mid-month.

"We'll have an unveiling of everything and a grand opening by next spring," Noonan says.

The bridge, a component of the 70-mile hike-and-bike trail throughout Macomb County, will connect the Macomb Orchard Trail to downtown Utica as well as the Clinton River Trail in Oakland County. It will provide pedestrians and bicyclists with a safe place to cross the river without having to navigate the busy Van Dyke/M-59 intersection.

The project is funded with grants from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and the Michigan Department of Transportation's Transportation Enhancement program, with matching funds from the Utica Downtown Development Authority and support from the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

"We're wonderfully excited," Noonan says. "It's going to be absolutely gorgeous."

Source: Jacqueline Noonan, mayor of Utica
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Detroit Mayor Bing, local leaders to speak on mass transit, urban vitality

Trucks, trains, boats, and planes are all important to sustainability, and a symposium at University of Detroit Mercy tonight will discuss that.

"Riding Trucks, Trains, Boats, and Planes to Urban Vitality," presented by the university's College of Engineering and Science and its School of Architecture, is the theme for the 2010 Designing Sustainable Detroit Symposium. Detroit's mayor and other business leaders are expected to participate in the symposium, scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight in the Fountain Lounge, on the university's McNichols Campus.

Up for discussion is how transportation initiatives bring about economic development, job creation, and livability to Detroit. Speakers include David Bing, Detroit mayor; Matthew Cullen, president of the board of M1 Rail; Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano; and Melissa Roy, senior director of transportation policy and government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Leo Hanifin, dean of the College of Engineering and Science at UD-Mercy and director of the Michigan and Ohio University Transportation Center, will moderate the gathering. "I think transportation systems have enormous potential for stimulating economic development, making the city more livable -- everything from jobs, entertainment, health care, education," he says. "There's a lot of different impacts."

Other cities, specifically Portland, Ore., have used light-rail transit as a driver for transit-oriented development. Portland put in a three-mile route downtown for $100 million, and within seven years had $3 billion worth of investment within two or three blocks of the system's route. "They realize that once people start circulating on this transit system, they stop, and they shop, and they eat and they drink, and they do all the things that people do in a vibrant city," he says.

The foundations for light rail exist in Detroit, Hanifin says, and he's confident it will eventually come to the city. "It's also very attractive to the young creative class that we want to retain," he adds. "They like that kind of transportation, they like that kind of environment that springs up around light rail."

In addition to transit-oriented development, also to be discussed are The Detroit Aerotropolis Initiative and Detroit's TranslinkeD Strategy, which identifies key projects to stimulate economic development and help the area serve as a port for global trade.

RSVP for the free event at (313) 993-1540 or click here.

Source: Leo Hanifin, dean of the College of Engineering and Science at the University of Detroit-Mercy
Writer: Jon Zemke

Metro Detroit rail projects begin to take form

After receiving feedback from the community, the Woodward Light Rail project will hopefully be taking another step forward in the next few months in regards to its design.

With several plans suggested, Transportation Riders United (TRU) is advocating that the train run in the left lane of the road whenever possible, instead of sharing the right lane and running the risk of being delayed behind parked cars, buses, and other traffic impediments, says TRU Director Megan Owens.

One of the major details of the plan that still has to be worked out: Where the track should be laid on Woodward? According to TRU's research, a quicker and more reliable system comes from track in the center lane.

"A challenge is finding a balance between being a downtown circulator, and also wanting to have the beginning of real rapid transit," Owens says. "If you're going more than a mile or two, you want it to be quick enough to be convenient for you."

The public comment period ends Monday; visit TRU's website for more information. Owens says it will probably take a few months to compile the information and then proceed.

"We're not quite breaking ground yet, but this is a critical step forward," she says of the light rail.

Other upcoming meetings address Michigan's rail transit from a broader sense. The Michigan Department of Transportation is developing a Michigan State Rail Plan to build a long-term vision for both passenger and freight rail transportation throughout the state; a public meeting is set for 4-7:30 p.m. Sept. 28 at Michigan State University's Detroit Center, 3408 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Michigan by Rail is also hosting a public forum Wednesday at Fairlane Center South, at U-M Dearborn, from 6-8 p.m., to discuss present and possible future rail systems.

Amtrak exists for passenger service, plus there are freight tracks, but not really a plan for using that resource throughout the state, Owens says. Wednesday's meeting will discuss some of the places in Michigan people would like to be able to visit by train and how that could best be done. One example is a way to get up north on the weekend without sitting in traffic on I-75.

High-speed regional trains, commuter trains, light rail, and buses all play a part in mass transit. "It really all fits into the similar idea of giving people in Michigan, and in Detroit, choices as to how to get around," she says. "We can't do everything all at once, but it is important to continue to support and advance all these different transportation options."

Plus, the benefits go beyond easy transit: jobs, revitalization of urban areas, decrease in air pollution, and less dependence on foreign oil. "It's costly and complicated to get all the pieces done, but to have the future we want for our city, we really need all these options," Owens says.

Source: Megan Owens, director of Transportation Riders United
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

Inkster, Ypsilanti, Detroit, I-275 trail score pedestrian grants

It's all about the infrastructure. Not only will Inkster build a streetscape project and Detroit a walk/bike path, but because of state and federal grant money, portions of the I-275 Metro Trail will be also be reconstructed. Ypsi even got a slice of the community improvement pie.

The Michigan Department of Transportation announced the federal Transportation Enhancement grants Tuesday, for which Inkster will receive almost $600,000 in state and federal funding for a planned streetscape project. The intersection of Michigan Avenue (US-12) and Inkster Road will be improved about a block in all four directions, with decorative brick pillars, fencing, benches, decorate stamped concrete, and landscaping.

Kimberly Faison, special projects manager for the city of Inkster, says the project will help to define the city’s downtown, at that intersection, with an emphasis on trees, shrubs and perennials. And with traffic whizzing by on Michigan Avenue, "Sometimes our downtown gets missed, especially with the speed," she says. "Our residents have a lot of pride in the community."

The city has also acquired three easements in that area, which will be made into a green space, which will include seating areas.

Improvements done last year, including ramps and cross lights at pedestrian intersections, make the area more walkable, she says, while the streetscape is also expected to help calm traffic. Bus shelters are also a part of the expanded project, and the city hopes to receive future funding for a greenways project down the line.

Faison says Inkster's residents know the city has businesses worth visiting and space worthy of being rehabilitated and reoccupied, and this will help put them on the map. "The project really is exciting for us," she says. "We see this as a shot in the arm."

Elsewhere in the metro area, Detroit will get funding for a nearly 1-mile portion of the Connor Creek Greenway, to include a bike/walk path, seating areas and trees. Eighty percent of the $358,376 will be covered by federal funds, with the rest made up by a match from the city.

Portions of the I-275 Metro Trail, in Canton Township, Van Buren Township, and Romulus, will also be rehabilitated, including the addition of a boardwalk over wetlands and signage. That project is nearly $4 million, covered by federal and state funding.

Finally, Ypsilanti also received a grant for streetscape projects.

Statewide, a total of $10 million was awarded to 11 counties for non-motorized trail improvements, roadway streetscape, parks and water quality.

Source: Kimberly Faison, special projects manager, city of Inkster; Michigan Department of Transportation
Writer: Kristin Lukowski

MDOT brings Metro Trail to I-275

The state is already planning for improvements to bike paths next year, starting with the "non-motorized spine" linking communities in Wayne County.

In all, about 5.5 miles of the Metro Trail will be reconstructed. Projects will begin in the spring and will include rehab of six bridges and two boardwalks, a new pedestrian signal at Ecorse Road, and new signage.

Work is scheduled on the I-275 Metro Trail (along Hines Drive where needed), and on Michigan Ave. The rehabilitation was made a priority by both the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Metro Region Nonmotorized Advisory Committee, says Kari Arend, an MDOT communications representative, in an e-mail. The path has fallen into disrepair since its construction back in the 1970s, and MDOT began planning efforts to rehabilitate the path about four years ago.

MDOT "recognizes the need to serve a variety of transportation modes," she writes.

Also on the plate is work on I-94 south to the Lower Huron and Willow Metroparks, which includes rehab and connection to those parks.

Metro Trail links not only communities and counties, but other path systems, roads, and future routes. Future plans call for extending the path north up M-5 to link to Oakland County trail systems, and eventually extending the trail into the city of Monroe.

Rehab, with regular maintenance, can extend the trail's life by another 30 to 40 years. "Following completion of the trail upgrades and linkages, it is hoped many more users will use this non-motorized option," Arend writes.

Also planned are extensions of an M-5 project from 13 Mile to 14 Mile and from 14 Mile to Maple Road. Current plans call for the use of Meadowbrook and 13 Mile to connect the M-5 path to the existing I-275 trail, which ends at Meadowbrook in Novi.

Tree, shrubs, and other plants are being incorporated to reduce erosion and improve drainage and aesthetics. Boardwalks will be constructed in wetland areas to avoid damage to the environment.

Source: Kari Arend, spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Transportation
Writer: Kristin Lukowski
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