The Potential Downside to the Economic Stimulus

There’s been a big push by many groups to get Green projects in the Obama economic stimulus package.  We’ve already mentioned the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s push.  The DNR Parks division has submitted about a quarter-million in infrastructure projects.  The Detroit Greenways Coalition has their trails submitted as well.

That’s all the good news.

The fear however is this stimulus package will also fund a significant amount of road expansion.


While many states are keeping their project lists secret, plans that have surfaced show why environmentalists and some development experts say much of the stimulus spending may promote urban sprawl while scrimping on more green-friendly rail and mass transit.

“It’s a lot of more of the same,” said Robert Puentes, a metropolitan growth and development expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington who is tracking the legislation. “You build a lot of new highways, continue to decentralize” urban and suburban communities and “pull resources away from transit.”

And decentralizing/sprawl also hurts bikability and walkability.

Some local concerns involve planned expressway expansion, notably I-75 in Oakland County and I-94 in Detroit.  Neither project made financial sense long before the recent declines in vehicle miles traveled.  Now they make less sense.

And they’re certainly not green, but they might get in the stimulus package.

The I-94 project is especially bad in that it would remove nine bridges over the expressways — permanently blocking bicycle routes within Detroit’s non-motorized transportation master plan.

And because the highway expansion was planned before the non-motorized plan, MDOT is ignoring the latter.  However, reading their Final Environmental Impact Statement only shows that MDOT wasn’t going to let non-motorized priorities get in the way of an expressway expansion.

That said, there’s not too much we can do until MDOT’s economic stimulus list becomes public and we see what’s on the list.

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