Plans for revamping I-375 moving ahead

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Detroit — As plans to transform Interstate 375 into a surface street linking to the riverfront move forward, state transportation authorities are asking for public input on proposals they will use as the blueprints for the thoroughfare’s future.

Dave Langlois, project engineer, HNTB, speaks to concerned citizens during the I-375 Improvement Project meeting Tuesday at the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit.

“We really need your feedback so … we can have a project that meets the needs of everyone here,” Jon Loree, a project manager with the Michigan Department of Transportation, told attendees.

A forum at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Outdoor Adventure Center drew more than 100 people interested in learning the latest efforts to overhaul the nearly two-mile freeway that links downtown to Interstate 75.

Officials have spent years working to improve the stretch of road constructed in the early 1960s. A review by MDOT, the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. and the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy determined its design was outdated, and authorities have sought changes to address safety, traffic congestion as well as other problems in the area.

Construction is not expected to start before 2022. MDOT stresses a plan has not yet been chosen. “There’s still input we need,” said MDOT spokesman Rob Morosi. “This is just a part of the process.”

Six alternatives for the corridor were compiled through technical analyses, input from an advisory committee, public feedback and recommendations from a public agency-led group. After an open house MDOT hosted at Eastern Market in May, a screening process to pick which ideas best met criteria such as easing pedestrian travel identified two “practical” alternatives .

Using maps, three-dimensional renderings and illustrations, project coordinators on Tuesday showed residents how those alternatives aim to transition the freeway to a surface street that links to the riverfront.

Bike lanes are also proposed, and one of the proposals calls for a new northbound I-75 entrance ramp, said Dave Langlois, an official with HNTB, the infrastructure firm involved in the project.

A citizen points to locations on a map of the Interstate 375 Improvement Project during a meeting on Tuesday at the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit

Some of the changes free up land in spots that could be redeveloped, said Steve Lewis, an urban design director for Detroit. He also noted that city officials and others are watching to ensure any I-375 update dovetails with plans for the riverfront. “We’re realizing the riverfront’s real potential as a local tourist destination.”

Project officials are slated to gather feedback on the two alternatives while finalizing an environmental assessment. With revisions, the alternatives could eventually be narrowed to a single preferred option before a public hearing in spring 2018, “but that depends on the comments we get as well as how things progress,” said Jon Loree, an MDOT project manager.

Detroiter Helen Gentry came with few details and pored over project renderings. “I’m more informed,” she said. “Everything you learn is good.”

Donald Green, another Detroiter who attended the forum, doubted the thoroughfare needed overhauling.

“There’s no problem with I-375 that can’t be fixed through restoration of the road,” he said.