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Bus stops due for makeover on 8 Mile

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Bus stops due for makeover on 8 Mile

$3.4-million grant to aid beautification effort

May 17, 2004

BY MARY OWEN

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

Two hundred bus stops in 10 communities along 8 Mile will be getting a makeover,thanks to a $3.4-million grant to spruce up the road made famous by Eminem's movie "8 Mile" as a symbol of racial and economic divides between Detroit and its suburbs.

The federal government is providing $2.7 million; the rest is from the state.

At 9 a.m. today, a groundbreaking ceremony will be held at the bus stop near the Belmont shopping strip near Dequindre -- which is where Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties meet.

The ceremony also will kick off the Eight Mile Boulevard Association's ninth annual Clean Team campaign to beautify the road. The campaign runs through Friday.

Meanwhile, bus stops on both sides of the road from Beech Daly in Southfield to Eastland Center in Harper Woods will get new signs, benches and trash cans by this fall. Many of the stops in that approximately 20-mile span don't have any of those things.

About 15 shelters will be built with global positioning satellite systems to let riders know when the next bus is coming.

"This project is huge for 8 Mile development," said Tami Salisbury, executive director of the Eight Mile Boulevard Association, a group of business owners and city leaders whose communities border 8 Mile.

More than 776,000 people take buses along 8 Mile each year, about a third of them to their jobs. The improved bus system is expected to boost ridership and benefit businesses along the road.

"Benches would be great," said Lovie Wilbourn, 66, after getting off the bus at Eastland Center. "They need benches because sometimes there'll be senior citizens, like me, having to wait.

"I've waited 1-2 hours for the bus," the Detroit resident said. "They say a bus breaks down. But every day? I have never seen bus service as bad as Detroit."

The Detroit Department of Transportation is trying to address riders' complaints, said Natalie Starks, a spokeswoman for the department's director, Norman White.

"He is aware of the concerns of passengers and plans to improve services," Starks said of White, who was appointed about a month ago. "We're doing everything we can. The No. 1 priority is service."

Salisbury says association members drop their agendas at the door to collaborate.

"They've really worked hard to upgrade 8 Mile, which has gotten a bad reputation over the past years," said Warren Deputy Mayor Mike Greiner of the association. The road is Warren's southern border.

During the cleanup of 8 Mile, business owners and volunteers plan to sweep, weed and paint along the road. Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel and 25 nonviolent inmates plan to help the cleanup today.

Association officials will patrol 8 Mile, giving away prizes from businesses along the road to people they see cleaning up.

Cleaning up 8 Mile is nothing new for Ola Joiner, who manages a Salvation Army Thrift Store in Detroit. Every morning she sends an employee to pick up trash and sweep up around the building.

"It used to be really nice out here," she said. "After time, this area went down because people lose interest. . . . I think it would be a fantastic thing to clean up 8 Mile."

Contact MARY OWEN at 586-469-1827 or [email protected]

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