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Allan

SE Michigan's $41B Highway/Transit Plan

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Friday, October 29, 2004

Highway, transit plan: $41B

Critics contend plan sets aside too much for maintenance, not enough for transportation.

By John Wisely / The Detroit News

Southeastern Michigan would spend almost $41 billion on road and transportation projects in the next 25 years under a plan expected to be approved next week.

Transportation officials say the plan would mostly maintain current roads and transit systems with some expansion. The bulk of the money, 79 percent, would go to projects that would maintain and improve roads and bridges, despite protests from groups that wanted to see more money spent on mass transit. The Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments is expected to vote on the plan Nov. 4.

"There was a considerable amount of public comment urging SEMCOG to diversify the area of public transportation," said Ferndale City Manager Tom Barwin. "They absolutely refused to do it. They dismissed every comment."

Some commuters agree, but they acknowledge it's a tough sell in a region that loves automobiles.

"It's tough to get a Detroiter out of his car," said Henry Sommerstorfer, 65, of Clinton Township, who has driven the regions roads and freeways his whole life. "I think it's worth looking at. It might catch on."

The plan calls for $8.8 billion for mass transit over the next quarter century, $6.9 billion of which will cover operation and rehabilitation of area bus systems. Any additional federal money for light rail or other new systems would have to be matched by local tax dollars, said Jennifer Evans, transportation coordinator for SEMCOG.

"We're certainly in favor of more and better transit," Evans said. "If we had more money that was available to spend on transit, we would spend it."

Barwin argues the region is being shortchanged on public transit money by not coming up with local matching funds. He said a half-cent sales tax in the Tri-County area would provide a local match that could bring in more federal transit money. SEMCOG should be advocating more for public transit, he said.

"They are supposed to be leading," Barwin said. "They never let the people decide."

Ferndale and other transit groups sued SEMCOG earlier this year, claiming the group's governing board underrepresented the interests of Detroit, Ferndale and other inner-ring suburbs. A judge dismissed the suit but Ferndale is appealing.

Evans said fixing everything in the region would cost an estimated $70 billion, $30 billion more than the expected available money. The plan is a prioritization of the projects for which money can be expected, Evans said. Funding the plan is contingent on Congress passing a highway bill, which has been delayed more than a year.

SEMCOG is the regional planning authority picked by Congress to coordinate transportation in the region. It worked on the plan for two years before unveiling it in draft form in June. Evans said SEMCOG held five public discussion sessions to review it with a total of about 60 people attending the sessions. SEMCOG made minor alterations to the plan, mostly to explain things more clearly, Evans said.

"It's pretty much as we prepared it in the draft form," Evans said.

Among the largest and most controversial of the road projects in the plan is an expansion of Interstate 75 from Eight Mile Road north to M-59 in Oakland County.

The expansion, which Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said is crucial to Oakland's growth, is expected to cost $533 million. When feeder roads and interchanges are redone, the total price tag exceeds $1 billion. Critics worry it will contribute to sprawl.

Wayne County's largest project in the plan is a $1.3 billion widening of Interstate 94 from Interstate 96 to Conner, which will require several interchanges to be reconfigured. Macomb County's largest projects involve surface streets but the county's largest freeway, Interstate 94, will get one of the earliest projects, a $12 million resurfacing of the freeway from Joy Road in Mount Clemens north to M-29 scheduled for next year.

You can reach John Wisely at (313) 222-2035 or [email protected]

Transit Projects

Among the projects in the 2030 Regional Transportation Plan are:

Road operation: $15.8 billion

Transit operation: $6.9 billlion

Pavement:: $7.1 billion

Congestion mitigation: $4 billion

Bridge repairs and replacement:: $2.6 billion

Road and transit studies: $1.5 billion

Source: Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments

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This plan is ridiculous. If Detroit is to survive and revitalize itself as a true cosmopolitan urban city, it is crucial that it have a viable and useful mass transit system. I agree that expanding highways and roads is important but after a certain point (a point which we've already passed), this just contibutes to sprawl and that is something that Detroit has more then enough of. This new transit plan should focus the bulk of its money into ensuring that the city of Detroit have viable mass transit - preferably through a rail system. Are there any mass transit advocacy groups out there? I've joined a Detroit mass transit meetup group (actually, I'm the only member right now) on the web. The address is:

http://masstransit.meetup.com/8/

If anyone else is interested in this or knows of other groups out there, please join this and maybe we can figure out if there is anything we can do to push the issue and get something done.

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Welcome to the forum!

I definately agree with you on all points. It's nice to hear from someone who is willing to help fight for the cause. :) I will go more in depth on why mass transit is so necessary in Detroit later tonight, but I have a major project that I am finishing up for my design class at 2 PM tomorrow.

The only transportation advocacy group I know of is Transportation Riders United, whose website can be found at http://www.detroittransit.org/.

SEMCOG occasionally has meetings about transit, but they are such a suburban-oriented organization that they have made very few provisions for mass transit in their 30 year transportation plan for metro Detroit.

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Here we go again. If people don't like traffic, why do they keep moving all the way out there?

MATT HELMS: Canton Ikea plan hot; traffic effect likely not

November 3, 2004

BY MATT HELMS

FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

When Ikea, that Swedish superstore of affordable, chic furniture, home goods and yummy meatballs, announced last week that it would build its first metro Detroit store in Canton, you could forgive the folks who were asking:

Are they nuts?

There's genuine excitement about the prospects of an incredibly popular, trendy store making its Michigan debut in their part of town. But Ikea's plans will plop its fabulous, 306,000-square-foot self smack dab in one of the worst traffic backups in town, on Haggerty Road near the completely awful I-275/Ford Road area, where even on Saturdays, the traffic is a nightmare.

Just ask the people who live near the area.

They talk of avoiding Ford because of 15-30 minute waits to go a mile or so, of Ford-bound traffic backing up onto I-275, and how this isn't just a rush-hour phenomenon.

In large part that's because Canton is one of the region's fastest-growing areas. It has about 84,000 residents -- nearly 30,000 more than it had in 1990, according to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. Its population is expected to top 100,000 by the year 2030.

And the strip of Ford Road from I-275 to a mile or so west has become a big shopping and dining destination for the west side -- not quite Hall Road in Macomb County but still a slow, congested mess.

"There's too much traffic already," says Joe DePoole, who in February moved from Dearborn Heights with his wife, Kate, and their two kids to a neighborhood near Ford Road and Lilley in Canton. "I don't think people realize what Ikea means for this area. People come from hundreds of miles."

The DePooles and their neighbors advised me to stay away from Ford during the afternoon rush, but I drove it Monday -- twice -- between 5:30 and 6. Both times it took me more than 8 minutes to go just more than a mile from just east of I-275 to Lilley Road to the west. And this is a 45 m.p.h. road.

There's just too much traffic on Ford -- and more trying to get there from I-275.

We really won't know how much worse Ford Road will get -- and whether efforts by the state and local governments and the Ikea folks to ease traffic will offer significant help -- until 2006. That's when Ikea says it will open on Haggerty Road at a now-empty Super Kmart to an expected 2 million shoppers a year from as far away as northern Michigan, northern Ohio and eastern Ontario.

But township and state officials say there is help on the way, not merely in anticipation of Ikea's arrival, but also because Ford Road already needs it.

The Michigan Department of Transportation says, for one, that it recently completely retiming traffic signals along Ford Road in Canton and will continue to monitor the progress.

Nearly $2 million in more significant roadwork is scheduled to start next spring, too:

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Wednesday, November 3, 2004

I-275 fixes underfunded

Local agencies will have to be selective in choosing what road work to complete.

By Francis X. Donnelly / The Detroit News

Development has prospered along Interstate 275 but has grown so rapidly that it's threatening to outpace the addition of roads, bridges and sewer and water systems, according to a recent study by Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

"It really has been growing quite a bit," said Brian Parthum, a planning analyst for SEMCOGwho did the profile. "Since the corridor is growing so much, there will be more and more of a demand for infrastructure."

An earlier SEMCOG study had found that the region needs $70 billion to improve its transportation over the next 30 years but will only earn $40 billion in revenue.

Because of the shortfall, local agencies will have to be selective in deciding what fixes to make on roadways such as I-275, Parthum said.

SEMCOG performs a profile of the I-275 corridor annually for a real estate forum held by the University of Michigan and the Urban Land Institute. The corridor comprises 16 communities in Oakland and Wayne counties including Livonia, Farmington Hills and Northville.

Joe Laura, a former Livonia councilman who unsuccessfully ran for mayor last year, said the interstate was a two-edged sword for communities like Livonia.

On one hand, it allows residents to live far from heavily developed areas by having freeways that connect them with the large cities. On the other hand, the freeways attract their own type of development.

"Everybody wants to live in the country but they also want stores and businesses to service them," he said.

He said local residents refer to I-275 as the Golden Corridor.

The SEMCOG profile of the interstate measures the surrounding area with a variety of statistics, ranging from census numbers to nonresidential development to land use by community.

Population along I-275 is expected to grow 14.3 percent over the next 30 years, compared with 11.7 percent for Oakland County. Wayne County's population is expected to fall 2.3 percent during that time.

Another sign of I-275's economic health is its state-equalized valuation, which has grown by 60 percent, or $10.6 billion, over the past decade.

But the area also is running out of space for new construction, according to the SEMCOG profile. Some of the communities along the freeway - Belleville, Northville and Plymouth - are virtually built out.

That's an important point because communities depend on new development to boost their tax base, Parthum said.

You can reach Francis X. Donnelly at (313) 223-4186 or [email protected]

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