June 24, 2013 – There has been much discussion over the past few days over the inclusion of improvements to both I-94 and I-75 in the SEMCOG 2040 Regional Transportation Plan. This discussion culminated in a strong vote by the elected leaders of our region to include both projects in the Plan. At SEMCOG’s General Assembly meeting last Thursday, many people, including a number of young professionals, expressed their opinions on the merits of both projects and gave reasons why they were not in agreement with the proposal to include the projects. I thought most of the people that spoke expressed their concerns very well and with much passion. They were thoroughly professional. I disagree with several of the points they made and some of their information was outdated and just plain wrong – but I also agreed with them on many of the key points that they made.
Cities are for people and we need to invest our scarce resources in recognition of this. The recent influx of young people into Detroit is breathing new life into an old decaying city and it is wonderful to see. At the same time, I thought there was not the recognition that many of the things they were asking for – more walking and biking facilities, more and better public transit, reconstruction, not expansion of the existing system – is actually happening, or is in progress.
The I-94 and I-75 projects are large, expensive projects – there is no getting around that. The vast majority of the dollars are going to rehabilitate the existing roadway and interchanges that are old and not as safe as they can be. If done properly and with community input, they have potential to be a major part of the renaissance of Detroit and Southeast Michigan. In that regard, I believe MDOT will continue to work with the community and find ways to address many of the concerns that were raised at the meeting. As was mentioned last Thursday by MDOT, having these projects in the plan allows for the discussion to continue and I believe that is just what will happen.
It is difficult to understand that a project in your neighborhood can have regional and even national impacts. We have seen this debate as it relates to the construction of a new international bridge crossing, public transit, and now these major roadway improvement projects. It is a great example to me of why organizations like SEMCOG exist – to identify the benefits of projects to the region as a whole and try to do what is best for the region as a whole, while still addressing legitimate local concerns. I believe the elected officials of the region got it right. I also love the passion and enthusiasm that was exhibited by many of the commenters and believe many of their concerns will be positively addressed as the projects continue moving forward.
Good job by all!
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