Most ride, run and walk the trails throughout the city of Detroit without knowing who helped create them.
One person you should know is our good friend, the recently-retired Deputy Director of the Department of Public Works, Jose Abraham.
Jose started as a Dequindre Cut skeptic. Why convert this decrepit, abandoned rail corridor into a trail? Will it get used?
However, once it was built, he saw its potential and fully bought in. He led efforts on the Dequindre Cut Extension, part of the Link Detroit project. One highlight was landing a major federal TIGER grant to help fund it. Though the city had requested $15 million, the feds only approved $10 million — still a substantial grant.
We’ll never forget an initial TIGER grant meeting with Federal Highway Administration officials where Jose asked if we could scale back the project since we didn’t get all the funding that was requested. The officials said no, the city needed to find another $5 million dollars elsewhere. After a bit of nervous laughter, the meeting continued — and Jose made it happen. (Fortunately the construction bids came in lower than anticipated, too.)
Even before the Extension was under construction, Jose was looking to do more. He picked up Coalition plans for an Inner Circle Greenway, a 26-mile trail encircling the city. “The mother of all non-motorized trails,” as he liked to say. Of course this trail was recently renamed as the Joe Louis Greenway.
We worked closely with him writing grants under his direction, including the successful $3.4 million Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and $1.2 million MDOT grants. These grants are now being used to acquire nearly 8 miles of abandoned Detroit Terminal Railroad property to close one of the biggest gaps in the Joe Louis Greenway.
We are certainly going to miss working with Jose on the numerous non-motorized projects happening all across Detroit, so many of which he played an instrumental role. This is especially true of the Joe Louis Greenway.
Thanks Jose for all you’ve done getting us to this point. You’re efforts will not be forgotten.
Let’s start by saying it’s not easy picking only five — and that speaks well about all that is happening to make the city of Detroit a better place for biking and trails. But here we go in no specific order…
This multi-faceted $20 million non-motorized project will be completed by the summer. Yes, it was supposed to be completed by last November but construction was delayed with unexpected utility issues and a polar vortex.
What does this project involve?
Extending the Dequindre Cut from Gratiot to Mack Avenue with a additional connecting trail into Eastern Market along the north side of Wilkins.
Adding bike lanes from the end of the Cut to Hamtramck, mostly along St. Aubin. These are done.
Replacing three bridges over the Dequindre Cut. If you’ve ridden the pothole-ridden Wilkins bridge before then you know this is good news for bicyclists.
Improving Russell Street. This mostly focuses on pedestrian improvements, but it also include some very nice bike parking stations.
Adding bike lanes and a Midtown Loop path connection from Eastern Market to Midtown.
We thought it would be invaluable to count how many people are using this new section of the Dequindre Cut, so we got the DEGC (who’s managing the project) to add 3 automated bike and pedestrian counters. These will count 24/7 and the data will be part of the Coalition’s much larger city wide effort to count usage and document trends.
Inner Circle Greenway
Detroit city staff refer to this as the “mother of all non-motorized projects.” If you’ve not heard about it before, the Inner Circle Greenway is a 26-mile pathway that encircles the city of Detroit while passing through Hamtramck, Highland Park, and a little bit of Dearborn. It makes use of existing trails such as the Southwest Detroit Greenlink, RiverWalk, and Dequindre Cut, so roughly half of the pathway is complete. For all these reasons and more, it is a very high-priority project for our Coalition.
The largest gap is an 8.3 mile segment of abandoned railroad property. If all goes as planned, we expect Detroit will purchase the property this year using $4.5 million in grant funding the Coalition helped secure. We will be making another announcement soon about additional grant funding for planning. We will also work with the city on a substantial federal grant to build out the Greenway while also trying to get funding for more community engagement.
Lastly, we are finalizing some nice new maps of the trail. We’ll have those by the bike show in March.
Conner Creek Greenway
This Greenway begins at Maheras Gentry Park on the Detroit River and heads north roughly following Conner Avenue. It’s a mix of bike lanes, shared roadway, and off-road paths — and it’s nearly complete. This year it will get extended from Conner along E. Outer Drive to Van Dyke, crossing Eight Mile, and ending at Stephens Road (9.5 mile.) While this seems like a modest project for the top five, one should consider how many organizations were involved in making this happen: Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Detroit Eastside Community Collaborative, Nortown CDC, Eight Mile Boulevard Association, the Detroit Greenways Coalition, City of Warren, City of Detroit, SEMCOG, Wayne County and two MDOT TSCs.
It also is significant since it crosses Eight Mile and is part of the Showcase Trail between Belle Isle and Wisconsin. Look for plenty of green bike lanes in Warren’s section.
E. Jefferson Bike Lanes
A very short segment of E. Jefferson will get bike lanes this year from Alter Road to Lakewood. Why is this a big deal? They’ll be the first separated (aka protected) bike lanes in Southeast Michigan. This is precedent setting and could serve as a model for all of Detroit’s major spoke roads.
East Jefferson Inc. is also working with other members of the GREEN Task Force and the city of Detroit to extend those bike lanes to the Belle Isle entrance at E. Grand Boulevard.
Cass Avenue Bike Lanes and Midtown Loop
M1-Rail is creating a major cycling safety hazard on Woodward by locating streetcar rails near the curbs where bicyclists ride. As a result, the FTA and MDOT agreed to make Cass Avenue a more attractive cycling option. This summer Cass will be getting bike lanes (some buffered) from W. Grand Boulevard to Lafayette. A mixture of bike lanes, sharrows, and off-road paths will connect Cass to the RiverWalk via Lafayette, Washington Boulevard, E. Jefferson, and Bates.
But that’s not all. Public bike repair stations and air pumps will be installed along with automated counters including two kiosks that display bike counts in real-time. Those counts will also be automatically uploaded and available on the web as well.
This project also completes the final leg of the Midtown Loop along Cass Avenue between Canfield and Kirby.
Honorable Project Mentions
The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy should complete two new sections of the RiverWalk in 2015: Chene Park East and Chene Park West. A third project will begin later this year that connects the current dead end near Riverplace to Chene Park East.
The Downtown Detroit Partnership is becoming our non-motorized champion in the downtown area. They are currently developing a plan for sorely needed biking connections. They’re looking to take the best of what New York City, Chicago, Portland have done and bring it here, which couldn’t happen soon enough.
We really need to mention the amazing work of the Detroit Public Lighting Authority. Their ongoing installation of new LED street lights is making biking and walking much safer. Pardon the bad joke, but it’s like night and day.
Complete Streets ordinance
This is not really a project but a policy change that the Coalition, Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative and others have been working on for years. We expect it to go before a City Council vote this year and we’d be surprised if it didn’t pass. For more information, check out Detroit Complete Streets page.
No, we didn’t mention the public bike sharing or the Uniroyal Site. We need to save some projects for future years!