The curious, quiet project to widen seven miles of U.S. 23 between A2 and I-96

It’s a most curious project, and a quiet one so far: The Michigan Department of Transportation wants to widen 7.3 miles of road shoulder along U.S. 23 near Ann Arbor. The ostensible goal is to make it safer and more comfortable for motorists.

We disagree. The proposed Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) project is much more than a benign “shoulder widening.” It is actually the addition of an extra lane with the potential to degrade nearby lakes and wetlands, impact air quality, create unsafe driving conditions and possibly worsen the congestion it is designed to alleviate.

Rain Runoff

The effects of additional stormwater runoff and other environmental impacts should be evaluated as part of the proposed highway widening.

Instead of trying to squeeze another too-narrow lane onto a high-speed freeway, MEC believes MDOT should be spending time and money getting commuter rail service – the so-called WALLY line between Ann Arbor and Howell – underway.

So MEC has formally asked the U.S. Department of Transportation for a more thorough review of the plan.  MDOT, by attempting to classify the endeavor as a series of multiple, smallish projects, has tried to skirt the environmental reviews that should be conducted.  It’s no small matter. We’re talking about 1.6 million square feet of new impervious pavement creating entirely new traffic patterns for drivers between Brighton and Ann Arbor.

If you’re into the details, our letter to MDOT is available here. You can get involved by writing your own letter, based on this draft template we’ve put together (it will ask you to open a Word document); or by attending the Dec. 12 public meeting from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Northfield Township Hall, 8350 Main St., Suite A, Whitmore Lake.

Written by Tim Fischer, Michigan Environmental Council (a Trans4M Core Member)

This post originally appeared on Michigan Distilled, a blog of the Michigan Environmental Council. 

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