Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

MDOT holding DIFT hearings next week

10. June 2005 • Murph
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If the greenway and three-site plan seems to you like not much to fuss about, perhaps the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal is more your cup of tea. MDOT is holding four public hearings next week on the draft Environmental Impact Statement for consolidation of several existing truck-train freight transfer yards, or development of a new one. As various alternatives involve razing large stretches of neighborhood (hello, Poletown), some people are understandably unhappy.

The hearings will be from 5pm to 8:30pm, at the following locations:

> Monday, 13 June: Southwest Detroit / East Dearborn – LA SED Gymnasium, 7150 W. Vernor
> Tuesday, 14 June: Corktown / Mexicantown – IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott Street
> Wednesday, 15 June: Grandmont – Holiday Inn, 5801 Southfield Service Drive.
> Thursday, 16 June: Ferndale / Detroit – Michigan State Fairgrounds, Community Arts Building, 1120 West State Fair Avenue

I know less than I should about DIFT, but here are some links:

> MDOT’s DIFT homepage
> MDOT’s DIFT FAQ (pdf)
> MDOT’s DIFT public hearing brochure
> Metro Times claims MDOT is the only party that really wants DIFT, 3 October 2001, Terminal Questions
> The Detroit News discusses Ferndale’s objections to consolidating onto the Michigan State Fairgrounds, 10 June 2005, Ferndale fights rail yard plan
> A 2003 UM Urban Planning Master’s Project Rethinking the DIFT aims to “broaden discussion of the DIFT” by “providing an independent, impartial assessment”. (the actual report is a 114 pg pdf.)



  1. Thanks for this, Murph. The whole “consolidation” angle reminds me of other related issues to Detroit’s decresed density—there is much vacant land but not in one place. “Consolidating” the freight terminal seems like a great idea until it’s clear that it can adversely affect the neighboring community.

    There are some proposals in the DEIS that suggest that if homes/business are “relocated,” other improvements such as barriers, landscaping, buffers, new pedestrian routes, etc. might mitigate the impact.

    Another angle to consider is how this might affect the Amtrak route which switches from N/S to the _?_ line that eventually parallels Woodward. Right now, this switch at Livernois/Junction is the slowest part because the train must slow way down to make a wide S turn. A shallower turn is preferable because it would not require as great a reduction is speed. According to an Amtrak engineer I met once, if a “lane” for such turn was simply added, it’d not only allow faster trips but also train upgrades in the future.
       —Chris F    Jun. 10 '05 - 04:09PM    #
  2. Absolutely maddening. They’ll destroy Mexicantown yet. An article in Crain’s last week highlighted a plan by International Bridge to triple the number of customs agents at the border and connect the bridge to the tunnel by bulldozing more of Mexicantown and building a 2 lane highway along the newly refurbished Riverwalk and condos. Brilliant.

    http://www.crainsdetroit.com/cgi-bin/article.pl?articleId=27105

    Slightly off topic, but the line that eventually parallels Woodward is known as the Dequindre Cut south of Hamtramck. Prior to 1983, the Cut carried commuter rail from Pontiac to the Ren Cen with stops in Birmingham, Ferndale, the Cultural Center and more.

    It has since been abandoned by the railroad and is being converted to a bicycle trail by the State of Michigan and City of Detroit.
       —Hillary    Jun. 12 '05 - 12:21AM    #
  3. Hilary, I didn’t realize the southern part of that line was going to be a Rails-to-Trails project, which is an example of a troubling dilemma that we may see more of: recreation advocates can push for rails-to-trails much faster than sensible transit options that could (re)use those same lines. And once a trail becomes a park, there’s no turning back. As a cyclist, hiker and transit user and advocate, it pains me to see these worthy (and complimentary) causes compete for scarce resources.

    The Crain’s article, much like the DEIS, mentions changes that would keep truck traffic out of the local streets and benefit the neighborhood which of course sounds good. Obviously, this should be regarded carefully and skeptically.

    “The proposed expansion site and improved I-75 connection would also respond to Southwest Detroit residents’ concerns about the pollution and damage to economic development from truck traffic on residential streets, Stamper said. The plan “still allows the tunnel to have direct connections to downtown but takes the rest of the traffic away from city streets,” he said. Stamper acknowledged many details have yet to be discussed. Environmental assessments have not been performed, and the need for government involvement has not been determined.”
       —Chris F    Jun. 13 '05 - 01:34AM    #
  4. On a related note, has anyone seen the “retro transit” posters in the poster shop on Main St? At first they seem like reprints of old bus and train ads, which are common enough. But a closer look shows them to be clever alternate-reality-retro:

    “Ann Arbor to Ypsilanti in 18 minutes on the Ann Arbor Subway.” At first I thought it was the old interurban trolleys, but the source reveals them to be ficticious.

    Man, traffic was bad on the Ypsi Skyway last night…
       —Chris F    Jun. 13 '05 - 01:48AM    #
  5. The skyway? What happened to the monorail?

    One consideration is that the proposed site at Delray is not fit for most types of development without soil remediation. Recent photos of Delray and history were recently posted on detroitblog.

    I still say let Willow run have the intermodal freight terminal. Detroit has enough roads.
       —Hillary    Jun. 13 '05 - 04:24PM    #
  6. Is this related to the “Jobs Tunnel”, a proposal with widespread corporate and labor support to convert a disused railway tunnel under the Detroit River to truck traffic? I heard they had complete funding for it, but construction was blocked by (1) the owners of the Ambassador Bridge, in collusion with (2) Detroit’s mayor.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 13 '05 - 08:48PM    #
  7. Larry,

    I think they are two separate projects, although obviously linked through complimentary interests. I know that someone is also trying to build another Canada crossing Downriver either at Zug Island (which belongs to River Rouge but is essentially Delray) or somewhere along W. Jefferson either through Grosse Ille (not typically NIMBYs but they sure are rich) or a little north of GI at Pennsylvania Road.

    As you can see, people are adamantly against adding a second crossing anywhere Downriver. They don’t even want the companies to begin surveying and figuring out the environmental, safety, infrastructure, etc. costs of building another bridge.
       —Chris    Jun. 16 '05 - 05:16AM    #
  8. There must be 100 plans floating around Detroit for crossings and tunnels and such. Last month, plans to add another crossing were delayed when a study discovered that the current crossings won’t reach capacity until 2025, 10 years later than previously forcasted. The number of cars crossings is down around 30% since 1999.

    Last weekend, we were eating sandwiches near the railroad tracks on Conant when an intermodal train went past. They’re kind of strange looking because the trailers are devoid of graffiti, all the same, and still have wheels on them.
       —Hillary    Jun. 16 '05 - 04:47PM    #