Our monthly newsletter is now online with updates on the Joe Louis Greenway, I-375 replacement, Bikes 4 Employees and much more.
Detroit bike and trail progress is moving at a pace we never could have imagined when we started over a decade again. Back then we celebrated sharrows. Now Motown has leapfrogged other US cities to become a leader in building non-motorized infrastructure.
This doesn’t appear to be slowing down in 2019 and we’ve picked out a number of projects that illustrate this progress.
It’s exciting every time a new piece of the RiverWalk puzzle is completed and a gap is closed. Soon the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy will have more construction ongoing that ever before.
- Atwater Beach near Jos Campau is under construction now and is expected to be opened in September. This is going to be a very unique and popular gathering place along the Riverfront with its bridge and sandy beach (but no water access.)
- The groundbreaking for the Uniroyal site should occur this year. This is the major gap between Mt. Elliott Park, Gabriel Richard Park, and the MacArthur Bridge to Belle Isle.
- The city of Detroit expects the Jos Campau Greenway will be under construction this year. This will provide access from the RiverWalk to E. Vernor along Jos Campau Avenue and on the existing public pathway. A pathway between Larned and E. Jefferson will be added as well.
- On the West Riverfront, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park received $50 million in October, $40 million of which is for construction. While work continues on the park, it is not scheduled to be open until Fall 2022.
- The Riverfront Connector between the Joe Louis Arena and Centennial Park was recommended for a $3 million Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grant. Additional funding is required to build this trail segment along the river.
- Planning continues on the May Creek Greenway between Centennial park and Roosevelt Park. This should get quite interesting with Ford Motor Company renovating the train station and now owning some of the property required for the trail. Their community benefits agreement includes verbal support for the greenway.
- Last but not least, the city of Detroit said they would be repaving W. Jefferson between Centennial Park and Riverside Park. This would be a major park connector. Currently the road appears war torn. This could be the most underrated project on this list.
The City of Detroit submitted an $18.285 million TIGER grant request last year to construct the Joe Louis Greenway (formerly known as the Inner Circle Greenway.) This $500 million US Department of Transportation grant program is super-competitive but we had high hopes given the value and scope of this great trail project.
However, we learned last Friday that Detroit’s grant wasn’t chosen.
Was this the end of TIGER funding? No one knows. These transportation grants began as part of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package. They’ve been quite popular with Congress.
In many ways TIGER grants are a more transparent and competitive replacement for the old High Priority Projects (HPP). These project funds would get included in transportation bills in order to get votes in Congress. The Detroit RiverWalk got funding through this, but then so did the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska.
We certainly do hope that TIGER grants continue for the reason we gave in this recent People for Bikes article: “…there just aren’t very many funding opportunities unless you want to take a really long time to construct it over multiple grants.”
Regardless, progress on the Joe Louis Greenway continues. The city is doing its due diligence (e.g. environmental testing) of the Conrail railroad property. If all goes as expected, they should be purchasing the property this summer.
Once purchased, a Framework Plan will be created for the entire trail, including the portion within Highland Park. This will be a great opportunity for the community to provide their input on the trail’s design and operation.
It’s also a time to look at adjacent land uses and how those might complement the trail. Adding green stormwater infrastructure is a no brainer, as is affordable housing — a tool for mitigating residential displacement from rising property values.
Lastly, our new Joe Louis Greenway map is at the printers now and should be available by spring. A PDF of the map is available now. Thanks to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Doppelt Family Fund for making this possible.
Back in February 2017, Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley asked, “When Joe Louis Arena is gone, how do we honor Detroit legend?” Legend isn’t used lightly with Louis. He was so much more than a world champion boxer. From breaking color barriers to fighting fascism, Louis was an inspirational both inside and outside of the ring.
So when Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan proposed naming the Inner Circle Greenway in his honor, it also lifted the greenway. A conceptual asphalt trail around the city in 2008 was now being named after the city’s most impactful athlete. Riley’s followup column wrote, “Detroit cements honor for Joe Louis with a giant greenway around the city.”
Louis’s family approved of the naming. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise as his son is a bicyclist and is a board member for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
“I am delighted that the (greenway) will be named after my father Joe Louis,” said Joe Louis Barrow, Jr. son of the famous boxer. “It is a fitting tribute to a person who had a positive impact on so many people.”
Mayor Duggan added, “It will unite neighborhoods from all corners of this city in a dedicated area for walking and jogging and biking.”
Before this announcement, we contacted retired city attorney Jim Edwards. Jim was an early champion of the trail and coined the original name. He was very supportive of the renaming.
One interesting coincidence with the original name was the this caricature of P.N. Jacobsen standing in an “inner circle”. Jacobsen led the creation of the Detroit Terminal Railroad — which makes up about 8 miles of the greenway — and was an active Detroit cyclist during the 1880s and 1890s.
He wrote an article called The Detroit Wheelmen for the Outing Magazine in 1891. It noted that a result of the city putting on asphalt on the streets, “Wheeling has attained a height of popularity in Detroit heretofore unknown.”
Of course this was years before Detroit was Motor City — and we’re not advocating relinquishing that title. We just suggest adding a new one.
Detroit, world heavyweight greenway champion.