Officials present $6.3M in upgrades to SE Mich. roads

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments on Thursday presented $6.3 million in proposed streetscape and pathway improvements along busy Metro Detroit roadways for 2017.

Fifteen projects spread throughout Wayne, Macomb, Washtenaw, Oakland, St. Clair, Monroe and Livingston counties aim to improve pedestrian safety and infrastructure along major roadways.

The projects were announced at SEMCOG’s Executive Committee meeting shortly after SEMCOG released a study that said pedestrian and bicyclist deaths went up 10 percent last year in Metro Detroit.

“We’ve noticed this trend that these accidents are going up,” said Kathleen Lomako, SEMCOG executive director.

While Lomako said improved safety is the responsibility of bicyclists and pedestrians as much as motorists, the Transportation Alternative Program projects add sidewalks and pathways along major roadways, as well as trail connections and road crossings throughout the region.

SEMCOG has been working to educate people on roadway safety, emphasizing the importance of travelers being aware of their surroundings.

“We all play a part in making the system safer ... and clearly some of the solutions are easier and quicker to implement,” Lomako said.

The programs are funded by federal money given to SEMCOG and the Michigan Department of Transportation. SEMCOG has $5 million to spend in southeast Michigan. MDOT has $17 million to spend anywhere in the state.

During the meeting, SEMCOG also presented the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation budget summary for 2017, which amounts to more than $115 million.

SMART plans to bolster its fixed-route bus fleet from 37 to 59 by the end of the year. In 2017, the bus service plans to add 80 coaches to its fleet, according to Robert Cramer, SMART deputy general manager.

SEMCOG officials also approved an amendment to the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan for Southeast Michigan that deleted 14 projects in Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw, Wayne and Macomb counties. The dropped projects include widening part of Haggerty in Canton between Cherry Hill and Ford to five lanes, and widening Beck to five lanes in parts of Oakland County.

In the same vote, a plan to widen Romeo Plank to five lanes between 21 Mile and 22 Mile in Macomb was pushed back to fiscal year 2021.

The committee also unanimously approved the 2017-2020 Transportation Improvement Program, which contains 323 projects totaling an estimated $4.4 billion.

The program includes modernization efforts along I-75 and I-94 throughout the region, and $170 million needed for approach work for the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

Also discussed at the meeting were plans from a Water Resources Task Force, which was assembled to handle invasive species on southeast Michigan bodies of water and formulate a plan for funding development of area lakes.

Plans to promote “blue” economic development and increase public access to water resources for recreation will be presented when the council convenes in the fall.

(313) 222-2359

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau