The Southeast Michigan Council of Government (SEMCOG) approved the controversial 2040 Regional Transportation Plan, Creating Success with our Transportation Assets, at its June 20 General Assembly Meeting. While aspects of the plan met much public opposition, it also includes numerous projects that will greatly improve Michigan’s transportation system. The plan includes more than 90 pages of projects and outlines how $36 billion in revenue from federal and state funds will be allocated in the next 27 years (2040 Plan, abstract). We’ve already focused on the controversial expansion projects. This week, we will highlight the positive projects that comprise the majority of the plan.
SEMCOG utilized a variety of community engagement techniques including audits, resident surveys and public meetings to learn about the needs and desires of residents in SE Michigan. Throughout the community engagement process it was clear that Michigan residents recognize the need for a modern, comprehensive transportation system; 80% of regional residents agreed that “we must reinvest in the region’s infrastructure so we can prosper economically” (2040 Plan, p. xiv). Additionally, most residents rated the current transit system as fair/poor and 73% indicated that funding is not being used efficiently (2040 Plan, p. xiv).
The plan recognizes the changing needs for our transportation system in the 21st century. SEMCOG outlines the change in the culture of transportation through old realities and new realities, recognizing the New Mobility needs in the region. On page eight of the 2040 Plan, these changes in realities are shown, which makes it clear that SEMCOG has recognized that a more comprehensive transportation system will be necessary in order for the region to become a competitive urban center. For example, an old reality listed in the plan is that “biking facilities are purely recreational,” while now, “biking facilities are an essential part of our transportation infrastructure.”
The chart on page 8 of the RTP that shows “old” v. “new” transportation realities (Source)
A variety of projects in the plan address non-motorized transportation. They include implementing bike share programs, building non-motorized paths and constructing sidewalk ramps. There are also many projects planned to update traffic signals, such as retiming them to make them more efficient for pedestrians and adding pedestrian signals to intersections that previously did not have them. In Wayne County, $1.5 million is being allocated to constructing a non motorized path along 0.17 miles of the Detroit River. In Ann Arbor, a bike-share program is planned to be implemented throughout the city.
Along with improving non-motorized infrastructure in SE Michigan, the plan outlines four main categories of sustainable transportation projects: improving/creating transit facilities, supplying transit authorities with additional buses, continuing rideshare programs and modernizing rail projects. In alignment with many public comments during the SEMCOG General Assembly, the plan works toward a more comprehensive transportation system, and many road and bridge projects address repair and maintenance that the Southeast Michigan region so desperately needs.
Overall, transportation infrastructure is getting a much needed influx of funding through the RTP. In Detroit specifically, a city where 25% of residents do not have access to an automobile (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011), funds are being allocated to improve the struggling transit system. These projects will fund new buses, improve transit facilities, replace transit software and address other maintenance needs. Funding is allocated to each project separately and a project cost breakdown can be found on the SEMCOG website. Among the many transit-related projects throughout the region, allocations include $1.9 million toward “transit capital” work on Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) busses, $43 million toward “urban transit operation” and $52.8 million toward “implementing transit service” for DDOT (Project List, p. 26).
DDOT bus arriving at the Rosa Parks Transit Center (Source)
The plan also has a significant passenger rail component. The plan includes funding allocations for various projects related to the construction and operation of the Detroit – Ann Arbor Regional Rail Project and the Washtenaw and Livingston Line (WALLY), which will run between Howell and Ann Arbor. These projects include modernizing rail infrastructure and constructing commuter rail stations, among others. According to SEMCOG, the Detroit – Ann Arbor Regional Rail service is scheduled to begin with event service later this year. Station development funding has been received and will continue through 2013 as well for the WALLY line. Aside from these commuter rail projects, the plan mentions the $6.5 million in federal dollars already allocated to the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to study transit development in other high-priority transit corridors including express bus, rail, and bus rapid transit along Gratiot, the M-59 corridor between Pontiac and Mt. Clemens, M-12 (Michigan Ave.) from Detroit to Ann Arbor (2040 Plan, p. xxi).
Although SEMCOG faced wide public opposition regarding the plan’s highway capacity expansion projects, the plan includes many essential repair and maintenance projects for Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges. One of the major investment priorities is improving bridge and road conditions (2040 Plan, p. xxxiii). Two examples of major repair and maintenance projects are the replacement of two bridges in Livonia over I-96 between Middlebelt and US-24, with $9.7 million of funding allocated and the reconstruction of M-53 from 15 Mile Road to 18 Mile Road with an allocation of $31.8 million (Project List, p.16 & p. 20).
One example of Michigan’s crumbling state highways that make driving quality not only undesirable, but dangerous (Source)
With many of these projects will be completed in 2014 or shortly thereafter, there is a lot to be excited about in Michigan. Our local officials have recognized the need for a more comprehensive and modern transportation infrastructure in Southeast Michigan. The I-94 / I-75 expansion projects are flaws in an otherwise solid plan that will Move Michigan in a positive direction.
Written by Kajal Ravani and Liz Treutel, Trans4M Fellows