Joe Louis Greenway Updates
The City of Detroit announced the Phase 1 construction of the Joe Louis Greenway. This will mostly be on 3-mile section of the former Conrail property between Warren and Fullerton Avenues. Construction is expect to begin in the spring of 2021. The City adds, “Phase 1 will include separate paths for slow and fast users (such as walkers and cyclists) and will provide safe street crossings and neighborhood connections.” Awesome!
For those disappointed that only 3 miles are being built should remember that Phase 1 of the Dequindre Cut was less than a mile. Greenways that require environmental cleanup and are more than just a strip of asphalt or gravel are expensive. This is a fairly good start that will build momentum for further investment.
In the meantime, the City is asking everyone to take this very interesting survey to gather your thoughts and expected uses. The survey will close on August 21st.
The City is hosting an online public meeting on August 13th at 6pm. This meeting is primarily focused on residents in the 48210, 48238, and 48204 ZIP codes as well as Dearborn residents. The City “heard loud and clear” during the Framework meetings that local residents wanted a lead voice in the greenway’s design through their community.
I-94 Project Improvements
For more than a decade, we’ve highlighted our concerns about MDOT’s I-94 project through Detroit. When the City and other stakeholders joined in, MDOT listened. They’ve made nearly all of the changes we’d asked for, including fewer service drives, more connections over the freeway, and improved pedestrian crossings. Those changes were just approved by the Federal Highway Administration and are posted online.
MDOT is hosting two online public meetings on August 13th at 9:30AM and 5:30PM to discuss this milestone and provide additional information.
As part of the project, MDOT has already removed the Second Avenue bridge over I-94. The new bridge should be open by the fall of 2021. The Cass Bridge will be replaced starting next year. While the Third Avenue bridge was to be removed next year (and not replaced), MDOT is now looking at repurposing this bridge to maintain access in the near term.
The changes to the I-94 project also include a fully separated trail bridge for the Conner Creek Greenway and Iron Belle Trail. This bridge connects to the existing trail north of Harper Avenue as well as the new Chandler Park trail at Shoemaker. The path will continue south as a two-way cycletrack on Conner Avenue to E. Jefferson.
We brought forward many issues relating to the FCA Expansion and how it affected the Conner Creek Greenway. The Greenway was routed on portions of St. Jean which no longer exist. We were concerned the Conner Avenue bike lanes might go away as well. That is not the case as the State of Michigan recently awarded road funding to improve Conner Avenue near the plant and shift the bike lanes to the eastside of the road.
“FCA appreciates the coordination of efforts between the City of Detroit and MDOT to secure funding for local road improvements that will support the addition of 5,000 new jobs at our Mack and Jefferson North Assembly plants,” said Marc Brazeau, head of Logistics – North America, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. “We are equally pleased that these improvements will benefit local residents and businesses, as accommodations will be made for bicyclists and pedestrian access to local core services and recreational facilities.”
Complete Streets and COVID
The Detroit Department of Public Works (DPW) has been continuing their Complete Streets projects, working on a transportation master plan called “Streets for People”, and responding to the COVID pandemic. Caitlin Malloy-Marcon, Deputy Director of Complete Streets recently presented updates during a recent Green Task Force Transportation and Mobility committee.
The Complete Streets projects will mostly be completed this year. This includes Grand River (and the Grand Parklet), Livernois, Riopelle (in Eastern Market), Jos Campau, Conant, Kercheval, W. McNichols, and Rosa Parks (from W. Grand Boulevard to Clairmont). East and West Warren are slated for 2021, but require additional community engagement.
Complete Streets are more important than ever. With fewer vehicles on the roads, increased speeding has been reported. Detroit residents also continue to request speed humps to reduce speeding in residential areas. There are now 6,000 speed hump requests in the queue. This is far more than the city has funding for so they are prioritizing locations near schools and parks.
The “Streets for People” planning is underway though they are largely doing data collection at this time while trying to determine how to best enage the public during the pandemic. They have found that 40% of all reported collisions occur on just 3% of city streets. They have also developed educational materials. We’ll certainly share more information about this project as it progresses.
Lastly, DPW has been responding to the pandemic by making it easier for businesses to offer outdoor dining within public right-of-ways, i.e. sidewalks, alleys, and roads. They’ve streamlined the permitting processes, and where requested, closed some roads to vehicle traffic. It’s been a “great success” though most of the requests have been in the downtown area. They are also looking to pursue similar efforts that would open right-of-ways for outdoor retail as well as recreation near schools, especially since some gyms may be repurposed as classrooms.
Robots on Sidewalks
Amazon and FedEx want automated delivery devices as a last-mile solution for delivering packages. They have been working with legislators to change state law and allow autonomous half-ton, motorized vehicles on all Michigan sidewalks operating at 10 MPH — and grant them all the rights pedestrians.
What could possibly go wrong?
From the start, we’ve been leading on this issue, creating an analysis of how other states regulate these, and highlighting issues with the proposed language. We’ve focused on protecting existing pedestrian access (including those with disabilities), while keeping them out of bike lanes and trails. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve asked for local control so cities like Detroit have the flexibility to manage these new devices and preserve a walkable environment. Council member Scott Benson introduced a resolution (later passed by Council) that also asked for local control.
The legislation (SB 892) passed out of committee with Senator Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) opposed. It did include some of what we asked for, including a prohibition on trails. It doesn’t specifically allow them in bike lanes. The local control is extremely limited. It also allows any individual to operate these devices and for reasons other than delivery. On a positive note, it does include improved pedestrian crosswalk provisions which we strongly support.
We’ll continue working with others, including the Michigan Municipal League and Detroit City Council to try influencing legislators to pass a bill that doesn’t prioritize the delivery business over walkability.
- Bike lane maintenance. Maintenance has been reduced during the pandemic, but it’s starting to improve. However, given expected cuts in future state road funding (from decreases in fuel sales), DPW is making adjustments. Their updated maintenance plan should be released soon. One bright spot: their new bike lane mini-sweepers are being tested and should make it much easier to sweep and vacuum the bike lanes.
- Greenway maintenance. With grant funding from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, we’ve been able to contract the Greening of Detroit to do maintenance work and tree plantings along greenways. We’re also using this funding to make repairs and improve the automated bicyclist and pedestrian counters on both the Dequindre Cut and Cass Ave.
- Michigan Trails Publication. You may have seen the high-quality printed magazine called Michigan Trails at your local bike shop. You may have noticed in recent issues that Detroit trails were excluded. We worked with the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance — a major sponsor of the publication — to get the Detroit trails re-added. The Michigan Trails website now links to our new Detroit trails page with a map, photos, and destination highlights aimed more at those unfamiliar with what’s happening in Detroit.
- I-375 Alternatives. We were concerned about MDOT’s proposal to delay construction funding for this project until 2027. The project would greatly improve walking and biking along the entire eastside of downtown, including connections into Eastern Market. It would also allow significant green stormwater management handling runoff the many large roads and paved parking lots in this area. This month the SEMCOG Transportation Coordinating Council rejected MDOT’s request. The local press has now picked up on the story. We’re continuing to advocate for this project happening sooner. We believe the full story has not yet been revealed.
- Detroit Bikes. For its 125th anniversary, Schwinn is collaborating with Detroit Bikes on a limited-edition cruiser inspired by the 1965 Schwinn Collegiate Deluxe. Detroit Bikes is now producing upwards of 10,000 bike per year in the city.
- Erb Family Foundation. We want to thank the Erb Family Foundation for their continued support of the Detroit Greenways Coalition and our efforts to get green stormwater infrastructure routinely included in all park, greenways, and Complete Streets projects.