Posts Tagged ‘Carl Levin’

Welcome to the RiverWalk, Secretary LaHood

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Both Michigan Senators flank the Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on the Detroit RiverWalkToday did not go as planned. At 11am I read about the Secretary of Transportation being on the Detroit RiverWalk. At 11:50pm I was walking into the ceremony wearing a suit and looking like I’d actually been invited.

Secretary Ray LaHood was in Detroit to tour the new Detroit Terminal Port and highlight the $7 million in stimulus funding that helped make it possible.

Also with the Secretary was Senator Carl Levin, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Congressman John Dingell, Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, and MDOT Director Kirk Steudle.

Before the tour, I had a chance to speak with both senators. They are both very in tuned with Detroit greenway projects, including the RiverWalk, Dequindre Cut, and Corktown/Mexicantown Greenlink. Senator Levin has helped bring significant funding to the Detroit RiverWalk.

When speaking with Senator Levin, I mentioned the fact that U.S. bicyclists cannot get across to Windsor and their excellent greenways without taking a car over the bridge or through the tunnel. Having this new Detroit port with customs and water taxi service would provide an excellent means for bicyclists crossing between our two countries. He apparently grasped the value in this as I overheard him repeating this to Secretary LaHood. He also highlighted it during his interview with ClickOnDetroit.

Senator Carl Levin said the new terminal will include a customs office, which will help increase traffic between Detroit and Windsor for water taxis, ferry boats and even bicycles.

“They can’t now come across. There’s no way to do it, so there may be a ferry service they are talking about to just literally bring people back and forth with their bicycles,” Levin said.

While I only had a brief moment to speak with Secretary LaHood, it was enough to give an elevator statement on our efforts in building a network of greenways across Detroit.

I also had a chance to talk with Curtis Hertel, the executive director of the Wayne County Port Authority who will be running the terminal. He too is interested in further discussions on how the Port can accommodate bicyclists crossing between Detroit and Windsor.

Still wearing my hat as Detroit Greenways Coordinator for MTGA, I made sure the Senators’ and Secretary’s staff got copies of the Detroit Greenways Network Brochure.

State Representative Marie Donigan and member of the House Transportation Committee was also there. She spoke with LaHood about improving transit in Detroit.

Will the RiverWalk be completed on this stretch next year? Probably not. There will still be a couple temporary connectors. Money to complete those is being sought. Also note that when ships are unloading passengers, the main RiverWalk will close. However, there is an alternate section that will pass around the Terminal building so that pedestrians, cyclists, runners, and skaters can pass.

Link: Photos from the Detroit Terminal Port tour

Link: Secretary LaHood’s “FastLane” blog on his Detroit visit

Metro Detroit biking in the media

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Dequindre Cut

It’s grand opening in May officially kicked off the Summer of Dequindre Cut Love. It was far and away the most talked about trail at the MTGA RiverDays booth. And at the Palmer Park Green Fair, Lt. Governor John Cherry was quick to locate the Dequindre Cut on the Detroit Greenways brochure.

The word is out.

And one major reason is the world class graffiti along the Cut. Yesterday’s Detroit News ran an article that discusses that graffiti with some of the artists that created it. The article includes both a video and an audio tour. It was interesting to learn that some of the graffiti is over 20 years old.

Additional link: Photos of the Dequindre Cut graffiti prior to the trail construction

Detroit Ferry Service?

Currently the only convenient means for getting ones bike across the Detroit River into Canada is by driving it. That may change as the Wayne County Port Authority will soon have support facilities for ferry service on the RiverWalk. The Free Press is reporting their receipt of $7 million in funding to further that effort thanks to Senator Carl Levin.

Imagine if taking your bike to Windsor, Canada was as straightforward as taking it to Mackinaw Island (with customs, of course.)

Special Needs Bike Camp

Today’s Detroit News has a great article called, Bike camp clears hurdle for special needs children:

Because of their limitations, only 10 percent of children with Down syndrome and 18 percent of children with autism can ride a bike, said Dale Ulrich, director of U-M’s Center for Physical Activity & Health in Pediatric Disabilities.

But after the camp, most who attend can ride a bike, and the study is finding the children are more likely to stay physically active, leading to many health benefits. This is especially good for children with Down syndrome since it often leads to excess weight. Children with autism often suffer from sleep disorders that are treated with medications, some of which cause weight gain.

Besides the health benefits, learning how to ride a bike also helps the children become more social, verbal and independent, Ulrich said.

No Sidewalks

This Free Press article, Road sound raises residents’ fury, shows how backwards some communities can be.

…The residents did post one victory. The township board agreed not to run a sidewalk alongside Square Lake Road.

“The beautification project is not most important right now, safety is the issue,” township Clerk Janet Roncelli said.

Apparently pedestrians safety is not a priority for Bloomfield Township.

Downsizing Detroit

The Free Press revisits how we can manage the downsizing of Detroit. While not directly about biking, a planned downsizing would lead to vast greenspace and opportunities for additional greenways and trails.

And in a related vein, the Detroit News is noting the return of wildlife within the city, including red foxes.

The red fox is carving out a place of its own deep into downtown, joining the ranks of raccoons, skunks, opossum, white-tailed deer and red-tailed hawks finding homes in untended lots, houses and buildings in the rusting one-time car capital.

And don’t forget the red-necked pheasants!

Congratulations to MDOT’s Greg Johnson

Thursday, February 12th, 2009
Al Fields (DTE) and Greg Johnson (MDOT)

Al Fields (DTE) and Greg Johnson (MDOT)

Many years ago we often heard cyclists level complaints against MDOT for the lack of safe road accomodations in Metro Detroit. At the time, they were right, that is until Greg Johnson became head of the MDOT Metro Region.

Greg went on to create an MDOT Metro Region Non-Motorized Committee. It was at an early meeting that he mentioned the need for our road networks to let cyclists get where they need to go anywhere within the Metro Region (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and St. Clair counties.)

Perhaps the biggest change Greg made was having MDOT take back responsibility for the I-275 bike path. After languishing without maintenance for 30 years, the bike path is getting repaired section by section. Money was spent to develop a plan on how to repair it, re-open the connection to Monroe County, and properly maintain it. Money is allocated to extend it north to Pontiac Trail.

Another huge change that is a little less evident is the MDOT Metro region’s trail bridge policy. When trails needed to build bridges over MDOT roads, there was always the question of who would maintain the bridge. Local governments often lacked the resources to even handle the inspections. Greg set the region policy where MDOT took responsibility for these bridges. This certainly helped trail bridge projects like the new Macomb Orchard Trail’s over M-53 and planned bridges like the Clinton River Trail’s over Telegraph.

And we can’t forget MDOT’s committment to bike lanes on future road projects involving Michigan Avenue and Fort Street in Detroit. Greg played a big role in making those happen.

And one final positive change. The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy received a $29 million earmark from Senator Carl Levin. Since earmarks require recipients to jump to additional (and often unfamiliar) hoops, Greg committed MDOT to designing and managing the construction of new Riverwalk segments.

So even though Greg is leaving the top position at MDOT’s Metro Region, he’s not leaving MDOT. He’s moving up. Greg has accepted the position of MDOT Chief Operations Officer. And while he expects to maintain his interest in many of the projects listed above, he also hopes to spread the Metro Region’s non-motorized transportation message at the higher levels in Lansing.

Best of luck to you Greg!

New Bridge inches forward

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

We previously discussed the plans for the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge and whether it will accommodate bicycling.

Yesterday, the Federal Highway Administration made the following announcement:

Plans to build a second border crossing between Michigan and Ontario have received the necessary environmental approvals from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The “record of decision” (ROD), signed today by U.S. officials, represents the Detroit River International Crossing’s (DRIC) final environmental clearance and allows Michigan to begin right-of-way acquisition and construction planning for the bridge.

If completed, the project – including a plaza where tolls and U.S. border inspection activities will occur, and an interchange connecting it to I-75 – would span nearly seven miles. Under current estimates, the new crossing is expected to be open to traffic in 2013.

Prior to this announcement, MTGA and other groups (including the Detroit Mayor’s Office of Energy and Sustainability) submitted comments that encouraged biking and walking on the bridge.

These comments generally asked:

  • How does this project positively impact Detroit greenways and the City’s non-motorized plan?
  • How does the bridge accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians?

MTGA comments noted that not all of the greenways in the DRIC’s vicinity were included, nor was there any mention of Detroit’s non-motorized plan.  MDOT said they “will investigate ways to integrate these projects.”

MTGA also asked for clarification on how bicycle would be routed on the bridge.  (There is a sidewalk planned for pedestrians.)  MDOT  responded:

The accommodation for bicycles on the new river bridge is likely to be the right shoulder. When exiting the bridge, a bicyclist would remain to the right of traffic and proceed to a separate building near the primary processing booths for vehicles. After processing, there would be an exit to Jefferson Avenue. All of this is subject to the determination of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its Canadian counterpart to allow bicycle use of the new Detroit River bridge.

That last statement could be a deal killer, though it’s difficult to imagine how a bicycle could be any more of a threat than a car or truck.

Still,  it may make sense to involve folks like Senator Carl Levin early on.  Senator Levin has been a major supporter of the Detroit Riverwalk and there’s every reason to believe he would go to bat for allowing bicycling across the bridge.