Big 4 leaders diverge on path to regional transit

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Detroit — Metro Detroit’s three county executives and the mayor of Detroit mostly agreed Friday the region could benefit from a mass transportation system.

But there were differing opinions on the Regional Transit Authority millage voters in Metro Detroit may be asked to support in November and concerns about creating a system that will best serve commuters.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said he doesn’t want to see taxpayers fund a regional transit plan that will be obsolete years from now. He also noted residents in Macomb County are content with the SMART bus system.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said he would support the millage.

“I think we need a better system than we have,” he said. “I think the RTA millage will help us gather the information to figure out how we can do that.”

Hackel and Evans were joined by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson at the Eight Mile Boulevard Association’s 17th annual Leadership Luncheon.

The association works with businesses and governments to revitalize and promote the Eight Mile corridor.

Panelists touted the progress along the dividing line between Detroit and its northern suburbs in recent years, noting road repairs, a rebuilt park, new LED lights and the lack of graffiti.

“You can see the difference in beautification on our side of the road,” Duggan said.

The four also discussed a proposal announced this week by billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert to build a MLS stadium in Detroit’s downtown at the site of a failed Wayne County jail project.

It is yet unclear how the project will be funded and Evans said he will not allow taxpayers to be on the hook.

“I’m not going to beat up our taxpayers who have already been raped on the failed jail situation,” Evans said. “I’m trying to get them out of this at the cheapest price that I can.”

Duggan said, “One way or another we are going to get Major League Soccer in downtown Detroit.”

The officials also had the opportunity to discuss poverty — a widespread problem in southeast Michigan.

Duggan and Evans both said more jobs and better education would help the poverty crisis. They discussed bringing low-skill jobs to Detroit and employing young people.