I-375 Improvement

I-375, the shortest signed Interstate in America, is at a crossroads. Its bridges are nearing the end of their lifespan. MDOT is going through a formal planning process to determine whether it should be rebuilt as a below-grade freeway or an at-grade urban boulevard.

We’re on the 375 Improvement Local Advisory Committee. Why? Because the new design can greatly improve non-motorized access across the freeway and improve connections to the riverfront and Eastern Market.

Latest MDOT update

The project team is very excited to share that we have received a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) from FHWA.  This concludes the environmental study phase and design will begin.  It has taken some additional time to get to FONSI due to inclusion of a community enhancements plan that will leverage the value of the excess property to address the historic environmental justice impacts of the original freeway and social equity concerns.  The enhancements plan will be developed through a community-driven approach, along with a land use study, that will kick-off later this summer.  We are very excited to work with the community and the City of Detroit on this innovative approach.

Michigan Department of Transportation

Construction funding delayed

MDOT anticipates the study to be completed by the fall of 2020 with the final design starting afterwards. However, funding for construction has been pushed back to 2027. City of Detroit firmly pushed back on this change but did not prevail. Despite the delay, MDOT says they are still committed to the project. 

Our comments on the project

Most of our comments have been incorporated into the preferred alternative, including:

  • There is a benefit to having the freeway below grade. Bicyclists and pedestrians at-grade don’t have to interact with the freeway traffic. Bringing I-375 to grade creates some busier intersections. One thought is to build bike/pedestrian underpasses at one or two intersections, e.g. Lafayette and East Jefferson. This would a provide safer, separated, non-stop option for bicyclists and pedestrians. The idea of a grade-separated, non-stop bike route doesn’t appear to be gaining much traction. Not in preferred alternative
  • It would be very beneficial having a non-motorized connection between the Ford Field area and Eastern Market. This should be part of a larger vision to connect downtown to Eastern Market.
  • We would like to see a connection along the east side of I-375 from Gratiot to Eastern Market. Russell isn’t the best for biking, but especially on Saturdays.
  • We want the non-motorized facilities on both sides of East Jefferson to be better aligned. In some designed they weren’t. It was unclear if bicyclists were expected to briefly use East Jefferson. Our preference is for a contiguous and direct route from the river heading north.
  • Getting rid of the Fisher Freeway stub heading east is great. The current intersection at Gratiot is horrific for bikes and pedestrians.

Old I-375 ERFA Project

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, MDOT developed plans to extend I-375 to Atwater.

The I-375 study seeks to improve access to I-375 from the Detroit East River Front Area (ERFA), including Jefferson Avenue. The project is intended to facilitate new developments in downtown Detroit while maintaining an acceptable level of accessibility and mobility. Study objectives include, but are not limited to, modifications to I-375 to address the operation and safety of the I-375/Jefferson Avenue intersection; provision of pedestrian-friendly access along Jefferson Avenue and coordination and interface of roadway access improvements with other outside transportation influences, such as the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project, Lansing to Detroit Rail Study and Detroit Department of Transportation’s ERFA transit study.

SEMCOG 2025 Regional Transportation Plan, June 2000

This study was completed in Fiscal Year 2001. In January of 2003, Governor Jennifer Granholm deferred $68 million MDOT had programmed for this project.

Additional Reading