Archive for the ‘MDOT’ Category

MDOT announces 2012 Training Wheels workshop dates

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

The Training Wheels program is an invaluable training that provides insight on how to redesign roads to better accommodate cyclists. It’s beneficial to the seasoned planner as well as the casual cyclist looking to make their city more bike friendly. The costs vary but are minimal (e.g. River Rouge is $15.)

Here is the press release from MDOT:

MDOT promotes on-road bicycling facilities

June 18, 2012 — The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is sponsoring “Training Wheels” courses around the state designed to educate communities interested in providing on-road bicycle facilities for their residents and visitors. The five-hour course includes both classroom and outdoor instruction. The courses will be offered in the following areas:

  • July 16 in Alma
  • July 17 in St. Ignace
  • July 18 in Ferndale
  • July 19 in River Rouge
  • July 20 in Kalamazoo

“Training Wheels” shows communities how to integrate bike facilities into existing infrastructure to make bicycling safe and convenient, providing alternate transportation that makes roads more complete for everyone. Classroom instruction using a guide produced by the American Association for State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is followed by an on-road, on-bike portion. The outdoor segment provides participants a firsthand look at the benefits of providing an alternative mode of travel that does not require expensive facilities for communities to build or maintain.

The “Training Wheels” courses are intended for city, township or county managers; council members; engineers; and related design and planning staff. The course is eligible for five Professional Development hours for professional engineers. Advance registration only. A bicycle and helmet are required – please notify local host if needed, since limited equipment may be available. Registration deadline is June 28.

For details, contact Cynthia Krupp at 517-335-2923, or by e-mail at kruppc@michigan.gov.

Bikes on Amtrak: Progress?

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

What is the status of getting roll-on bicycle service for Michigan’s Amtrak trains?

MDOT told us we’d have it over a year ago. That didn’t happen.

A March article on MLive showed that Amtrak isn’t even close on this and that it’s become a bigger issue beyond Michigan.

“We’re committed — in new equipment purchases there will be space for bicycles,” [Amtrak Chairman Thomas] Carper said. “How we retrofit old equipment that’s going to be phased out over the next two, three, four, five years — some of the equipment is older than I am. So there’s a balance, a cost balance in there. How we retrofit, there’s some engineering things that need to be taken into consideration.”

He added that upgrading Michigan’s rail service for bicycles could likely come as part of an upgrade across the entire Midwest Amtrak fleet.

Last week MDOT released a press released on the U.S. DOT’s plans to buy 130 new rail cars, 25 of which would be used on Amtrak’s Michigan lines.

Rail car manufacturers across the country will have an opportunity to submit bids to produce the first American-made, standardized passenger rail cars, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today.

The $551 million Request for Proposals (RFP) to manufacture approximately 130 new bi-level passenger rail cars in America comes from a groundbreaking multi-state effort to jointly purchase standardized rail equipment to be used on Amtrak’s intercity routes in California, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, and potentially Iowa.

These new railcars “will also offer greater bicycle storage.”

Bids are due in a little over a month and the new rail cars will be delivered starting in mid-2015.

What we don’t know is how many existing railcars will be retrofitted to provide roll-on service sooner.

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.

City of Detroit submits TIGER IV grant

Monday, March 19th, 2012

We mentioned Detroit submitted a TIGER III transportation grant that would have extended the Dequindre Cut and Midtown Loop. built bike lanes from Eastern Market to the planned Hamtramck Trail, and made major street improvements at Eastern Market.

That grant wasn’t funded though the city was told by one congressional office that it scored near the top.

The City is submitting an improved version of the grant request this round.

Competition?

One interesting wrinkle this time is it appears the M1 Rail group is applying for a $25 million TIGER IV grant as well. Even though it would be from the transit portion of TIGER IV, it’s unlikely two big grants would come to Detroit.

From the Detroit News:

[U.S. DOT Secretary Ray] LaHood said in January the government will consider awarding Detroit’s light-rail project up to $25 million on top of $25 million awarded for a bus rapid transit system.

LaHood told The Detroit News he is willing to offer additional government money if the M-1 light rail coalition can show it is financially viable.

Congressional aides said the M-1 plan assumes it will win the $25 million grant, which the FTA says is not certain.

The Detroit News is reporting the the U.S. DOT has “serious concerns” about the M1 Rail’s viability. The Detroit Free Press reports a more moderate response.

…while no decision has been made, there is skepticism in Washington, including concerns that the M-1 plan’s cost estimate — at $125 million — is too low and that the group of private investors won’t pull together enough private financing to qualify for a $25-million federal grant for the project.

Of course the other issue with M1 Rail and bicycling is their plan to run the street cars along the curbs. As we’ve said before, curbside alignments are problematic for cyclists and Complete Streets advocates.

Seattle cyclists sue

The street car tracks are a major safety issue and liability. At least a half-dozen Seattle cyclists have lawsuits against the city for crashes due to street car rails. We spoke with an attorney handling these cases and they said this would be a class action lawsuit if their office had the capacity to organize such an effort.

Does MDOT really want to open themselves up to that?

MDOT should know it’s a hazardous design for bicyclists — it’s mentioned as such in Detroit’s Woodward light rail reports.

There are safety concerns for bicycle users with [the curbside designs] due to the potential for bicycle tires to be caught within the rail flange space in the road. While alternative rail types may reduce this potential conflict, it cannot be fully mitigated.

Of course the odds are that neither project will receive the funding. It’s a hyper-competitive grant source.

Then again, Michigan’s only successful TIGER III grant was a road to a landfill, so anything is possible.

More on the West Bloomfield Trail extension

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

We mentioned a couple weeks ago that West Bloomfield had received Transportation Enhancement funding through the Road Commission for Oakland County.

The Spinal Column has more exciting details:

“We’re going to put a new limestone surface on top of the ballast similar to the existing trail, and have a safe road crossing at Arrowhead, Halsted and Walnut Lake,” said West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Director Dan Navarre. “There will be 400 feet of boardwalk north of Walnut Lake over a wetland area and a pergola area with benches.”

There will be benches installed every quarter-mile and two overlooks with benches – one at Woodpecker Lake between Arrowhead and Halsted Road, and another over a large wetland area west of Halsted.

A small parking lot will be constructed at the terminus of the trail at Haggerty Road.

This will add 2.5 miles of pathway and extend the West Bloomfield Trail all the way to Haggerty Road. Here it will eventually connect with the Walled Lake, Commerce, and Wixom rail-trail also under development. MDOT has also suggested building a trail bridge across M-5 to connect the trails.

The Road Commission is even considering a speed table where the trail crosses Arrowhead — an innovative traffic calming design that we’d like to see more of. Not only does it act as a stretched speed bump for cars, it tells drivers that they’re crossing the trail. It visually says that the trail has a right-of-way. This is a design we would have preferred seeing where the Dequindre Cut crosses streets south of Jefferson.

As mentioned in the Spinal Column, the West Bloomfield trail extension should be under construction by May and completed by the end of summer.

Support Transportation Enhancements

Federal Transportation Enhancement funding really makes projects like this possible, but that funding source may get eliminated in Congress. A vote on this is coming up this week in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Local congresswoman Candice Miller serves on this committee.

Please take a minute and call her office before Thursday’s vote and ask her to not eliminate this funding. Her Washington DC phone number is (202) 225-2106.

Let’s keep this funding in the next transportation bill!