Archive for the ‘MDOT’ Category

Putting Woodward on a serious road diet

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Woodward Avenue in Detroit between McNichols and Eight Mile is ten lanes wide and carries roughly 30,000 motor vehicles a day.

With that traffic volume, Woodward is twice as wide as needed. That translates to:

  • Roughly twice as expensive to maintain in good repair
  • Twice as expensive to light
  • Twice as expensive to remove snow
  • Twice as much water run off flowing to storm sewers

And wide roads are much more difficult for pedestrians to cross safely. They also encourage speeding.

One interesting idea: change the road so that only the five northbound lanes are used. South of the Eight Mile bridge, vehicles would crossover and use a two-way 5 lane road which includes a center turn lane. Similar, but temporary crossovers are used during expressway construction when half of the road is under construction. Curbside parking would remain on the northbound curb.

This would free up the existing five lanes of southbound Woodward for other uses?

We imagine two lanes closest to the median would be dedicated to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). The curb lane would be for a two-way cycletrack for bicyclists. The middle lanes could be permeable to absorb storm water and while also having space for southbound BRT stations.

This redesign could also reduce the footprint of the overly built Woodward and McNichols intersection.

Sound crazy? Remember that Woodward south of McNichols is effectively has six lanes during rush hour and five lanes at other times.

It’s an idea we’ll definitely pitch during the upcoming Woodward Complete Streets planning process, scheduled to get underway very soon now.

Bicycling between Detroit and Windsor by bridge & ferry

Monday, October 1st, 2012

The push continues for a means of getting bicyclists between Detroit and Windsor. The two preferred routes are a planned ferry service and the new bridge.

On September 14th, cycling advocates from Windsor and Detroit helped kick off a Share the Bridge campaign. Their focus is to ensure bike access on the New International Trading Crossing (NITC) being promoted by Canada, the state of Michigan, and others. According to Member of Parliament Brian Masse:

“People want the new crossing to be an asset for the community as well as for the North American economy. By investing in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure on the new crossing we will create a signature feature that can have economic, environmental and cultural benefits for the region.”

A press conference was held along the Windsor side of the Detroit River. Masse led the event where he stressed the need for cycling advocates to make this happen. An excellent video from the event has been uploaded with this quote from Masse:

“We get one chance at this border crossing to do it right, and we don’t want to be like the other communities out there that are having to fight to go back and rework things.”

State Representative Rashida Tlaib of Detroit was also there with many other political and cycling supporters.

This event was covered by the Windsor Star, CBC, and OurWindsor.

The campaign asks not only for bicycling access on the bridge, but proper connections to the greenways planned on both sides of the border. Those connections are planned on the U.S. side but not on the Canadian side.

U.S. bridge plans

We’d written about this last December and even showed a bridge cross section design. It appears we were looking an alternative design. The final design has two 10-foot shoulders for bicyclists and a separated 5-foot sidewalk for pedestrians — or less confident bicyclists.

This design is what was in the Bridge Type Study Report and Conceptual Engineering Report. Both documents are referenced in the final Record of Decision and recently submitted Presidential Permit application.

We’ve asked for MDOT’s commitment to these plans, but they are unable to directly address them. Governor’s Rick Synder’s office is handling the project communications.

The Canadians are still unsure of Transport Canada’s commitment.

Will these U.S. plans coerce the Canadians into supporting bicyclists? No one seems to know.

Detroit River ferry service

Masse also visited the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority in August. His mission was to ensure that Canadian Customs could use this facility for the ferry service. Under this scenario, both customs would be on the U.S. side as is done elsewhere on the border.

The Windsor Star created a couple videos of the event.

The second video is of Steven Olinek, deputy director of the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority.

A Cycling perspective on the Belle Isle agreement

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

There’s been a great deal of media coverage on a proposed agreement between the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan to make Belle Isle a state park.

Based on what we know right now, how would such a lease affect bicyclists?

Here are some changes we’ve seen in based on the proposed Belle Isle lease agreement.

  • Belle Isle would remain free if you rode your bike onto the island or brought your bike via a re-established DDOT bus route.
  • If you bring your bike onto Belle Isle using a motor vehicle, you will need to have a $10 annual Recreation Passport starting in April 2013.
  • Six to 12 months after signing the lease, the DNR would meet with MDOT to convert some internal roads on the east end of the island into two-way trails — a concept the current park manager has already put forth.
  • MDOT will assume maintenance on all park roads.

The existing asphalt paths and bathroom facilities would also be improved under the DNR.

One major concern we have is MDOT’s commitment. We want these roads improved, not just maintained. These roads should be made into Complete Streets.

  • We need sidewalks on many of the roads. Without them, people have little option but to walk in the bike lane.
  • The two bike lane cross over points at the entrance to the island need to be improved.
  • The MacArthur Bridge doesn’t require five vehicle travel lanes. We would like one lane removed, the bike lanes widened, and a buffer zone added.
  • The connection between E. Jefferson and the bridge needs to be improved for cyclists. While the entire intersection needs a redesign, that responsibility would remain with the City.

The Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance has submitted comments to Detroit City Council that suggest a change to the proposed lease — MDOT should commit to “preserving” these roads, which would include the above ideas and more.

This is a 30-year lease with two 30-year renewals. If this lease goes forward, do we want these roads only maintained as they are for the next 90 years?

MDOT has a greater commitment to state trunklines within the city of Detroit. The roads on Belle Isle should be given that same level of commitment.

MDOT adds buffered bike lanes to Northwestern Highway

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

MDOT was resurfacing Northwestern Highway this year and did something quite unexpected. They converted the road’s 12 foot paved shoulders to buffered bike lanes.

Originally this road from Inkster to 14 Mile had a 12 foot asphalt shoulder. That shoulder is now a 7 foot bike lanes with a 5 foot painted buffer. Is it ideal for families? Of course not, but many cyclists will find it a comfortable and safe place to ride in spite of the road’s 50 MPH speed limit.

We’ve encouraged MDOT to pursue similar designs on other state roads, but especially in Detroit where there are lower vehicle traffic and under-utilized vehicle travel lanes.

Also, we submitted the new bike lane information to Google Maps for approval.

Why Northwestern Highway?

As we see it, these bike lanes came about for three reasons.

First, the state’s Complete Streets policy encourages MDOT to add biking facilities to its roads.

Second, area cyclists were riding this road segments and had written to MDOT asking for an improved signs to better accommodate cycling. Well, MDOT did better than that. The key was letting MDOT know cyclists were already using Northwestern Highway. This provided documented justification for making the improvement.

Third, there was already a wide, paved shoulder. That made this retrofit very cost effective. The total cost was $21,855 on what was likely a million-some dollar project.

News Coverage

MyFoxDetroit covered this story as part of a segment on bicycling safety. Their story includes a video showing the new lanes.

Detroit River ferry would help cyclists cross the border

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Detroit River ferry service was back in the news last week – the Windsor news that is.

This CBC video and article provide a good background on where we stand with ferry service, including its potential to help bicycle tourism.

Gord Orr with Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island said the idea holds great promise.

“The potential of the bicycle tourism part of it is very exciting as we start to look at more trails and routes and see how we can increase more of that healthy lifestyle,” Orr said.

We agree. We need to connect the Detroit RiverWalk and Windsor River trail, as well as provide a crossing for the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route and future U.S. Bicycle Routes.

The CBC ran a similar article that spoke with MP Brian Masse of the Canadian Parliament.

“To me, this would be an exciting opportunity to put pedestrians and cyclists back and forth along the water,” Masse said. “Detroit has a marvellous waterfront now. They’ve worked hard on it and need to be commended for it. Ours, of course, is really nice and has been remodelled recently. This could be an exciting time to share both of our cultures again.”

The Windsor Star also chimed in with an article that also quoted Orr.

“I think that allowing passenger travel on ferry and bicycles included would also help the interest in cycle tourism. We have a number of trails to be enjoyed by cycle tourists and obviously this would eliminate the hassle of parking, crossing an international border at the tunnel or the bridge.”

It sounds like we’ve got the message out about the importance of this crossing, at least on the Canadian side.

What about the new bridge?

Progress continues to be made on a new Detroit/Windsor bridge – the NITC.

As mentioned earlier, the plans call for a bicycle/pedestrian path on one side of the bridge. We spoke with State Representative Rashida Talib. She said that if it’s in there, it’s unlikely MDOT can renege.

On the Windsor side, bicycle advocates are now making sure Canadian Customs is prepared to handle bike and pedestrian traffic. They also want to ensure their new greenways connect with the bridge. MTGA submitted comments to U.S. and Canadian officials asking that greenways are connected to the bridge.

Do cyclists need a bridge and ferry service? We think so. The bridge would be a 24/7 option, but it comes with a steep price – a steep climb. It’s also located a short distance away from the riverfront trails and downtowns. Ferry service would be more centrally located and you’d only have to climb on board a boat. However, ferry service might not be available year round. The bridge would also provide some amazing views.

Bridge path a greenway?

Also, one suggestion is to create a name for this trail connecting Detroit and Windsor. Something like the International Freedom Trail sounds much better than just calling it the bike path on the bridge. Who could be against a trail with a name like that?

Or can you think of a better name?