Posts Tagged ‘Wayne County Port Authority’

Detroit RiverWalk lands a Transportation Enhancement grant

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Senators Levin and Stabenow escort Transportation Secretary LaHood on the RiverWalk

That short gravel section of the RiverWalk just west of the Ren Cen may soon be history. MDOT has awarded construction funding to help get it built.

The Detroit Wayne County Port Authority is constructing a public dock and terminal in downtown Detroit, between the Renaissance Center and Hart Plaza. The Port Authority also will construct a portion of the Detroit Riverwalk, directly in front of the terminal building. The project will provide various amenities, including ornamental railings, site furnishings and a security system. The project cost is $318,739, including $159,370 in federal TE funds and $159,370 in local match from the Port Authority.

The city of Ann Arbor also received funding that will “construct bike lanes and sidewalks on the East Stadium Boulevard bridges that cross over South State Street and the adjacent Ann Arbor Railroad track.”

MDOT’s press release also provided more details on this federal funding source called Transportation Enhancements (TE).

Under federal law, 10 percent of federal surface transportation funds are set aside for TE projects. Administered by MDOT, the grants enable communities to invest in projects such as streetscapes and nonmotorized trails. TE funds provide a maximum of 80 percent of the money required for each project, with the remainder coming from state and local government and the private sector.

This funding source is absolutely critical to getting bike projects on the ground in Metro Detroit and across the U.S.  Did the recent election results put this funding at risk? Bike-friendly Congressman Oberstar is no longer calling the shots, Mica is.

So last week, BikePortland asked Kevin Mills, Vice President of Policy for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, “Is the Transportation Enhancements program in jeopardy?” Mills answered:

“The Bureau of National Affairs recently reported that Rep. Mica may take transportation funding ‘back to basics’ and that Transportation Enhancements may be among the programs cut. However, Mr. Mica has vocal constituents and political allies back home for whom trail systems and bicycling are high priorities. He has expressed support for trails and participated in ribbon cuttings on numerous occasions, and he supports robust transportation spending overall. If there is an attack, it is likely to stem from House leaders directing committee chairs to push for aggressive cuts in programs that they do not perceive as core federal functions.”

We hope any attempt to take away Enhancements is met with a very enthusiastic response from cyclists. Losing this funding source would devastate many Detroit bike projects that are planned for the near future.

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!

Updates along the Detroit RiverWalk

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Model D Media published a story highlighting updates along the Detroit Riverfront.

The most visible and exciting progress is the RiverWalk extension through Tri-Centennial State Park:

…construction of the first phase of expansion known as the Lowlands Unit will be complete in mid-June, according to Ken Davis, an engineer with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The trenches that will comprise the wetlands area have been dug, the pump station to control water flow has been installed and construction on sidewalks and walkways has begun.

The Dequindre Trail, which will connect the State Park and RiverWalk to the Dequindre Cut is expected to be completed by the end of summer.

Construction of the Detroit Wayne County Port Authority terminal building next to the Renaissance Center is progressing too. Construction should be complete in early 2010. There are conceptual plans for water taxi service between the Detroit and Windsor, which may prove to be the most convenient way for cyclists to cross between both countries.

And, the short section of RiverWalk which was closed during the terminal’s construction is now opened. However, be forewarned that this section currently includes a stretch of loose gravel.

Also, Diamond Jack’s is moving their Hart Plaza dock to Rivard Plaza. This is great news as the current location and loading facilities create a major bottleneck for RiverWalk users.