Posts Tagged ‘NITC bridge’

Is Governor Snyder’s Belle Isle to Wisconsin Trail for bikes?

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Last November, Governor Rick Snyder lauded Michigan trails during a speech called “Ensuring our Future: Energy and the Environment.”
Belle Isle to Wisconsin Trail

Michigan has more total trail miles than just about any other state. Much of the credit goes to volunteers who have shoveled, raked, trimmed and groomed these trails on their own time and often at their own expense. This shows the real appetite Michiganders have for quality trails, and points to the opportunity we have to be the number one trail state.

We can reach that goal much faster together. I am directing the DNR, Michigan Snowmobile and Trail Advisory Committee, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the MEDC, the MDARD and the MDOT to align and prioritize their efforts to support and create trail connections. All these entities will reach out to local communities as partners, helping them to maximize the economic return from trail use. We can and will seek to make Michigan the Trail State.

He then committed to a new long distance trail.

As the Trail State, we will need a showcase trail that celebrates these efforts and pulls together private and public trails into a signature Pure Michigan experience. With the addition of approximately 200 miles of additional trails in the Lower Peninsula and the UP, we could hike or bike from Belle Isle to the Wisconsin border. Today, I am directing DNR to focus on connecting those trails, through cooperation with private and non-profit partners and the use of their own resources.

The Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA) helped with the trail routing — primarily bike lanes and sidewalks — through the city of Detroit and further north.

What’s odd is that the Midland to Mackinaw Trail is not fully open to bicycles. The same is true for some parts of the North Country National Scenic Trail which is used across the Upper Peninsula. The parts of that trail along Pictured Rocks and in the Ottawa National Forest are not open to bikes.

Reading the Governor’s text, it appears the trail should be open bikes.

What’s interesting is the latest State Trails Plan calls this trail a hiking trail. Certainly not all hiking trails are hiking-only trails, but it does make one wonder if the intended trail usages have changed since the original announcement.

We’ll trying to find an answer.

Continue the trail to Canada

The Governor has been a vocal champion of the New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor.

To us, it makes perfect sense that his proposed trail get extended to the new bridge and connect with Canada. This is another reason why we need bike and pedestrian access on this bridge.

In an informal conversation with the Governor, he seemed supportive of having this access on the bridge. In a followup email, he recognized that the approved plans do support bikes and pedestrians, but they also say it is up to U.S. and Canadian border security to approve it.

MTGA contacted Senator Carl Levin for assistance in working with Homeland Security. The Senator wrote Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security in support of bike and pedestrian access on the bridge.

“There are many benefits of a year-round cycling connection between Detroit and Windsor, including by bolstering the cycle tourism in the region.”

This support is already helping to legitimize the importance of this issue on both sides of the border — and we look forward to more positive news in the coming months.

Better for biking: Republican or Democrat?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

We were recently asked which party is better for bicycling. As you might guess, the answer is “it depends.”

Generally speaking, over the past decade, Democrats have been more supportive of bicycling at the state and federal levels. ?At the National Bike Summit in DC, you can usually count on a friendly welcome with Senator Carl Levin or Congressman Gary Peters.

There certainly are Republican exceptions, of course.

Governor Rick Snyder seems to be a strong supporter of cycling. He seems to recognize it’s value from a tourism aspect as well as a means for attracting and retaining young adults. We’ll probably know more as he fleshes out his urban agenda over the coming months.

But perhaps an even bigger Republican bicycle supporter is U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood. He’s really moved the conversation forward, tied it to livability, ?and given us “equal footing” in Washington DC. He vowed to retire as Secretary at the end of this presidential term, so it remains to be seen how his replacement will far. We’ve heard at least one very interesting rumor so far.

One thought to keep in mind is some Republican politicians support bicycling but are unwilling to support it at a federal or state level. I’ve heard it before that a politician supports bicycling but doesn’t think the federal government has a role. Or they are a supporter but not enough of one to buck the party vote. We’ve seen that too in Michigan.

So given the recent election results, we’re hopeful to see continued support for better, safer bicycling at the state and federal levels. It won’t be easy, but we could have been moving in a much more challenging direction.

We should also mention that the failure of State Proposal 6 decreases the potential headaches while building a new bridge to Canada, one that has bicycle access.

A cycling perspective on the Detroit Consent Agreement

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

With a 5-4 City Council vote, it appears the City has at least temporarily kept Governor Rick Snyder from appointing an emergency finance manager.

That vote was for a “historic” consent agreement, according to the Detroit Free Press:

In the historic consent agreement between the city and state over the management of Detroit, the city agreed to give up — at least temporarily — a good deal of sovereignty over its financial affairs.

So aside from the hope of future solvency, what does Detroit get in return?

A modest amount of increased state spending — and an array of promises.

The 53-page agreement does keep City Council in charge of policy, which is a positive for our Complete Streets efforts. Detroit’s road money is separate from the general budget. We’ve argued that our Complete Streets ordinance wouldn’t add to the city deficit. It just divides up the road funding pie in a slightly different way.

The agreement also contains some state promises which affect Detroit cyclists to varying degrees.

The Positives

The state vows to:

  • Improve public lighting by working with the city to create a separate authority to manage and finance streetlights.” Working street lights can reduce crashes.
  • “Move ahead with the New International Trade Crossing project.” The bridge plans do include a bicycle pathway.
  • “Invest in a regional, multi-modal system including BRT, bike paths and walkability.” We’re not sure if this means more state investment or just continued funding.
  • “Assist the market in applying for a federal TIGER grant to create a seamless trail system from the Riverfront through the Eastern Market, Brush Park, and Wayne State University areas.” It’s a little late. Detroit already applied.
  • Riverfront – Develop the Globe Building, expand Milliken State Park, dedicate a new launch for citizens near Riverfront Park and assist DEGC with resources and talent to transform Hart Plaza.” The latter likely refers to an expansion of Hart Plaza over land that was previously used for the Ford Auditorium.
  • Belle Isle – Create park funding for Belle Isle while ensuring continued City ownership by designating Belle Isle as a part of a cooperative relationship with Milliken State Park. This would include a long-term lease that would accrue the cost of the park’s maintenance and improvements out of the Park Endowment Fund. We will partner with Belle Isle Conservancy and the City to implement a master plan for the Island.”

The Belle Isle item is among the more interesting. Unfortunately the Free Press already got it wrong with an article titled, “Belle Isle likely won’t be free anymore.

If the island is managed like other Michigan State Parks, there will only be an annual $10 fee for arriving by motor vehicle. One can walk or bike into state parks for free and the same would likely be true with Belle Isle.

While some cheer that this small fee will keep out the less desirable elements, those elements won’t disappear. They’ll find another location, just like they do now when the island closes at 10pm. A fee is not a total solution.

The Big Negative

It can’t all be positive for Detroit cyclists, right? The state vows to:

  • “Accelerate a capacity improvement project for I-94 from I-96 to Conner Avenue, supporting more than 13,000 jobs between 2012 and 2020.”

This outdated, mostly unnecessary MDOT project will wipe out 9 bridges over the expressways, including some pedestrian bridges, Third Street, and John R. It effectively widens the I-94 scar through the community.

The Governor needs to get involved in this project since the cost/benefit numbers just don’t add up. It’s “benefit” is from a 1980’s frame of reference that put a priority on reducing rush hour congestion irregardless of the effects on the local community.

Fortunately some local activists are started to pull together some project opposition.

Biking and walking on the new Detroit bridge?

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Governor Rick Synder continues to push forward on the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) bridge between Detroit and Windsor. Given the apparent lack of support within his own party, the governor may now “go it alone” according to the Detroit Free Press.

One question we hear often is will the new bridge allow bicyclists and pedestrians along with motor vehicles?

But first, let’s mention that the Ambassador Bridge used to allow both on a narrow sidewalk — a sidewalk that is no longer there after the most recent re-decking. Without access to the Tunnel or operating ferry service, bicyclists have no convenient means to cross between the two countries. (Pedestrians can use the Tunnel Bus.) Could the NITC be an answer?

No one knows for certain whether we’ll get bicycles on the NITC as of today, but here’s what the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) says:

The new bridge over the Detroit River and the plaza will be engineered to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and its Canadian counterpart (Customs and Border Services Agency) will determine whether this traffic is allowed. All facilities will be designed to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. This will include sidewalks along the roads to be repaved as part of the project. This will be an upgrade at many facilities as they were built before the ADA requirements were established.

“Engineered to accomodate” is further defined in the 2008 Bridge Structure Study:

Initially, the section consists of three lanes in each direction, with a 1m flush median between travel directions and 3m outside shoulders. A sidewalk is only currently required on the U.S. bound approach to the toll and inspection plaza. This sidewalk is separated from the shoulder with a traffic barrier. A 1.066m metal railing provides fall protection on the outside of the sidewalk.

The designs show this sidewalk is 5.2 feet wide and more like a shared-use path. And having this path on the U.S. bound is smart since bikes and pedestrians will have the best views of both downtown skylines.

There are also 10 foot shoulders on both sides of the bridge.

The bad news? The Study says that if there’s increased motorized traffic, the path would be removed and the shoulders narrowed in order to add more lanes. However, we doubt traffic demands would necessitate that.

This brings up another question. would they allow a cyclist without a passport to pay the bridge toll, bike to the middle of the bridge, enjoy the view, then return back to their respective county?

MTGA Comments

During the FEIS process, the Michigan Trails and Greenways made these comments and received MDOT responses.

MTGA Comment MDOT Response
Which AASHTO bicycle facility type would be used [on the new Detroit River bridge], bike lanes or shared lanes The commenter is referred to the “Detroit River International Crossing Study, Bridge-Type Study Report,” dated January 2007, Revised July 2007. This document is on the project Web site (www.partnershipborder under U.S. Reports, Bridge Type Study Report. It discusses bike lane options (pages 3 and 29). A final decision on the bicycle treatment will be made in the design phase
The report does not address bicycling access from the bridge to the processing area to local surface streets. Shared pathways would likely be acceptable for these connections but not narrow sidewalks per AASHTO’s Guide for the Development of Bicycling Facilities. 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.
the FEIS. . . does not mention the Corktown-Mexicantown Greenlink, Southwest Detroit greenways, and Fort Street Greenway projects. These project should not be negatively impacted by the DRIC. MDOT will investigate ways to integrate these projects.
It appears the FEIS does not analyze the DRIC impact on the Detroit Non-motorized Transportation Master Plan . . . Any local road reconstruction that has been identified as a bike route should be rebuilt to accommodate bikes per the plan. MDOT will investigate ways to integrate these projects.
The AASHTO U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) has a designated corridor (Route 25) that includes the DRIC. Though the road route has not yet been set, it is likely to follow Fort Street or Jefferson Avenue. It is important that nay DRIC plan consider bicycling access?between this route and the new bridge. This connecting to Canada would be an invaluable addition to the Bicycle Route System MDOT will investigate ways to integrate these projects.
The cities of Detroit and Windsor are actively pursuing improved nonmotorized transportation and greenway trail networks. Connecting these two systems would bring a unique and significant benefit to the Metro Detroit and Windsor communities Comment acknowledged. As noted in the FEIS Section, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, along with its Canadian counterpart, will determine whether pedestrian and bicycle traffic is allowed on the new Detroit River bridge

Similar comments were made during the Canadian Environmental Assessment process, however they do not appear to have published written responses.

Essex County Wide Active Transportation Study

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

The city of Detroit touches four counties. Most everyone can guess Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne, but the fourth? It’s Essex County in Ontario.

Essex has put together an impressive County Wide Active Transportation Study (CWATS) which looks to improve cycling throughout their region.

According to Bike Friendly Windsor:

The study aims to add a lot more bike lanes, multi-use trails and signed bike routes on county roads, and to also connect the county’s lanes with active transportation facilities neighbouring municipalities (like linking the Chrysler Greenway Trail to city routes).

The one missing piece seems to be biking links between Essex County and Detroit — whether that’s by the proposed ferry service or New International Trade Crossing bridge.

Earlier this month I submitted comments on this omission as MTGA’s Detroit Greenways Coordinator. We also provided four reasons why this cross border link is so valuable for cyclists.

Here are those submitted comments: