The Inner Circle Greenway is a 26-mile non-motorized pathway encircling the city of Detroit and through the cities of Hamtramck, Highland Park and Dearborn. The Greenway makes use of other existing and planned paths, including the Detroit RiverWalk, Dequindre Cut, Southwest Detroit Greenlink, and the Iron Belle Trail.
Portions of the path are off-road while others use bike lanes. Approximately half of the Greenway will be completed by the summer of 2015.
We also want to connect this trail to the planned Gordie Howe Bridge and connect with the City of Windsor’s 26-mile bike loop.
Acquiring Former Railroad
The largest gap in the Greenway is the 8.3-mile abandoned Conrail railroad property that was part of the old Detroit Terminal Railroad. Like many other railroads in Detroit, they no longer have enough customers to justify their cost. The Detroit Terminal Railroad used to serve the former Ford Model T Plant in Highland Park as well as the Hudson and DeSoto car companies. Converting the property to a trail is a good use for these types of properties as proven by the Dequindre Cut.
The Detroit Greenways Coalition with the city of Detroit and other partners are working to acquire this Conrail segment. The Coalition wrote grants for the City totaling $4.5 million which equals the appraised property value. With the help of additional funding from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Kresge Foundation and the EPA, the city is now completing the due diligence on the property. This includes surveying, environmental assessment, and more.
Designing the Trail
Schematic designs for the unbuilt trail segments are being developed now with funding from the Kresge Foundation. We have attended the initial workshop and are very impressed with the current design direction. Some of the typical bike lanes are now protected bike lanes, and in some cases off-road. Unlike the Dequindre Cut, this trail is mostly at-grade and will include more road crossings. The design team is looking at how to make these safer and more convenient for trail users.
The team has also proposed a slight change to the trail routing in the northeast portion of the greenway. The new routing would remain on Joseph Campau rather that use Caniff and travel through Jayne Playfield. This simplifies the route, saves money, and can foster greater economic development along the Joseph Campau business corridor. We think this is smart. Sides routes from the Inner Circle Greenway will be developed that connect with the Jayne Playfield and Lipke Recreation Center similar to the connecting route planned for Palmer Park.
The Detroit Greenways Coalition did submit a grant to greater community engagement in this design process, but unfortunately we did not get that funding. We are looking at alternative strategies to involve those that have not had this sort of development in their community before. The Inner Circle Greenway is truly bringing the RiverWalk and Dequindre Cut to the neighborhoods and we want to create a trail that those residents want to use.
It will take approximately $25 million to complete the construction of this trail. In June 2015, the City submitted a federal TIGER grant request for $10.4 million to build the trail from Southwest Detroit to the Davison, just north of the Jeffries expressway. We should know by the end of summer if it is chosen in this highly competitive grant program. Detroit’s TIGER grant application (10MB) is on our shared drive.
The initial plan was to request the entire amount. TIGER funding won’t pay 100%. It requires local funding and we hadn’t yet identified over $2 million. However, the bigger concern was TIGER sometimes awards less than what you ask for — and expects you to cover the difference! This happened with Link Detroit, which includes Dequindre Cut extension. The TIGER request was $15 million but only $10 million was awarded. Fortunately additional funding and some competitive bidding made up the difference. A bigger ask could mean a bigger shortage and the city didn’t think it was wise putting itself in that financial position. Developing the trail in two phases was a prudent solution.
We are working with the City and others to identify additional funding sources to build Phase 2. As part of that effort and with the help from some kind donors, the Coalition is developing a video about the trail which shows its potential as an amazing transportation and recreation asset.