I-375 project delayed, to be announced next year

Leonard N. Fleming and Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

Officials have decided to delay unveiling proposals for the redesign of downtown Detroit's aging I-375 freeway until early next year.

The Detroit Downtown Development Authority and the Michigan Department of Transportation were going to reveal options and seek public feedback on Monday, but canceled the meeting Friday.

In a news release they said the delay was needed to "allow the technical committee additional time to consider input from stakeholders."

That committee, composed of representatives from the DDDA, MDOT, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Detroit Future City, the Federal Highway Administration, the city of Detroit and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, has been studying plans for more than a year.

It is considering options that include rebuilding the main line, turning it into a boulevard or connecting it to the riverfront with bike and pedestrian lanes. The freeway, slightly longer than a mile, is considered a major gateway into downtown and is close to the Eastern Market, Greektown, the stadiums, the East Riverfront and the Convention Center.

Robert Morosi, a spokesman for MDOT, said I-375 needs to be rebuilt.

"The overpasses are in poor condition and the pavement has seen some resurfacing efforts, but essentially it needs to be rebuilt," Morosi said. "We targeted the price at about $80 million. The freeway is a little over a mile long and is below street level. We wanted to ensure that before we started any preliminary engineering, we wanted to ensure that what we built would last 40 to 50 years and would fit into the vision of the city."

Officials haven't yet figured out how they will pay for it.

"There have been some studies done in the early 2000s to look at the feasibility of extending 375 toward Atwater. We engaged with stakeholders and had some public meetings," he said. "There are variations of what can be done with that mile stretch: keep it as is, turn it into a boulevard and other plans that would keep aspects of both. That's currently where we're at."

Alex Bourgeau, a transportation coordinator for SEMCOG who serves on the technical committee for the I-375 project, said this plans shouldn't be rushed.

"It's at a point where you are going to have to make a decision, do you reconstruct some of the bridges and other things or do you want to do something different?" Bourgeau said. "I think it's a good thing to do. Let's take it to the public, and take it to the business and people that live nearby and try to come up with one unified answer."

According to MDOT, the average daily traffic count for I-375 is 14,000 per day in the southernmost portion leading into Jefferson and 54,000 at the northernmost section near the sports stadiums.

The I-375 highway opened to traffic in 1964.

lfleming@detroitnews.com

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