On Sept. 15, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and local Detroit leaders announced that Michigan won a $105 million competitive federal grant to fund the I-375 modernization project in Detroit.
(Office of Gov. Whitmer photo)
On Sept. 15, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and local Detroit leaders announced that Michigan won a $105 million competitive federal grant to fund the I-375 modernization project in Detroit. The project will replace the outdated I-375 freeway with an accessible boulevard, spurring economic development and linking adjacent areas of Detroit.
Getting this done will create good-paying jobs and support local small businesses, reconnecting prominent Black communities split apart by highway construction nearly 60 years ago. Earlier this year, Whitmer announced that the project was cleared to move forward after the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) concluded its environmental review process with extensive community input.
"Today, Michigan competed for and won funding for the I-375 modernization project to replace a mile of highway in Detroit with an accessible boulevard, expanding opportunities for local small businesses and reconnecting communities split apart nearly six decades ago," said Whitmer. "In the 1950s, I-375 paved through two prosperous Black communities and displaced over 130,000 Michiganders and hundreds of businesses. While we cannot change the past, we can work together to build a more just future, and that's exactly what today's grant empowers us to do. We fought hard to secure this funding to create a corridor of economic opportunity in Detroit and build on the city's growing economic momentum."
"This stretch of I-375 cuts like a gash through the neighborhood, one of the many examples I have seen in communities across the country where a piece of infrastructure has become a barrier," said Buttigieg. "With these funds, we're now partnering with the state and the community to transform it into a road that will connect rather than divide."
"For several years, my team has been working hard to reinvent this corridor with the goal of acknowledging mistakes of the past, reconnecting neighborhoods and spurring economic growth. This grant marks a significant move forward," said Paul C. Ajegba, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation.
"I'm ready to fill in the ditch called I-375 and make it a beautiful, bustling boulevard, connecting the city of Detroit," said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. "We all know the painful history of I-375, and the city's planning staff is having ongoing conversations with the community on how we're going to transform I-375 together."
I-375 Project Details
The new street-level boulevard will begin south of the I-75 interchange and continue to Atwater Street. It will use the city's existing road grid to ensure a smooth flow of traffic by facilitating additional connections to the Detroit riverfront, Eastern Market and Brush Park. It will be six lanes for most of its route, not counting turn lanes, and four lanes between Jefferson Avenue and Atwater Street.
In addition to new lanes for automobiles, there will be a two-way cycle track on the east side of the boulevard connecting the riverfront to the Montcalm Street extension and extend west to Brush Street and east to Gratiot Avenue, where it will connect with the Dequindre Cut bicycle path.
History of I-375
I-375 was built nearly 60 years ago. During construction, prominent Black neighborhoods Black Bottom and Paradise Valley were demolished to make way for the freeway. Constructed through a thriving Hasting Street, the new I-375 opened in 1964 and created a barrier between the central business district in Detroit and the neighborhoods to the east, resulting in decades of underinvestment and a lack of opportunity for the predominantly Black communities on the other side of the freeway.
Several blocks of commercial and residential buildings also were levelled to make way for the freeway and urban renewal. Although I-375 has a number of cross-bridges, many properties declined due to reduced connectivity and especially because the community's economic and residential base was substantially dislocated.
Today, almost three generations later, Michigan can eliminate this obstacle and provide easier access to better jobs, services and quality of life to the residents of adjacent areas of persistent poverty. After nearly 60 years of use, I-375, the I-75/I-375 Interchange and associated bridges are nearing the end of their useful service life and require modernization.
Extensive research was conducted starting in 2014 with a Planning and Environmental Linkage (PEL) study to identify and evaluate alternatives for the corridor that would meet the transportation needs of all users in a cost-effective manner and improve connectivity. The PEL determined that the transformation from a freeway to a boulevard was feasible. The conclusion of the PEL lead to an Environmental Assessment (EA) study to document the human and natural impacts associated with any proposed improvements. Guided by the study's purpose and need, as well as extensive public outreach, a preferred alternative was developed and presented at both a virtual meeting and an in-person public hearing in January 2021.
MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have documented and thoroughly reviewed the public comments submitted in the FONSI, which is the final National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) decision document and describes why the I-375 improvement project will not have any significant environmental impacts expected to occur upon implementation of the selected alternative design. NEPA is about people and places and balances engineering and transportation needs with social, economic and natural environmental factors.
MDOT added measures to be taken that acknowledge the impacts on residents and business owners in the former Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods. These measures include:
- Implementing a process for the community to provide meaningful input that can be incorporated into the final design. The process will begin with the formation of a new community-based local advisory committee.
- Preparing and implementing a community enhancement plan, land use framework plan and aesthetic design guidelines with the new advisory committee.
- Using the value of the excess property to fund community priorities that will be identified during outreach efforts.
Rebuilding Michigan's Roads, Bridges
Since taking office through the end of 2022, Whitmer and Lt. Governor Gilchrist will have fixed, repaired or replaced more than 16,000 lane mi. of road and 1,200 bridges, supporting more than 89,000 jobs without raising taxes by a dime.
These and future repairs are made possible by the Rebuilding Michigan plan, a five-year, $3.5 billion investment in highways and bridges, and the bipartisan Building Michigan Together Plan, the largest one-time investment in Michigan's infrastructure in state history. These strategic investments in Michigan's infrastructure ensure that future Michiganders will have safer roads and bridges to run errands, travel and strengthen the economy.
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