Governor Rick Synder continues to push forward on the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) bridge between Detroit and Windsor. Given the apparent lack of support within his own party, the governor may now “go it alone” according to the Detroit Free Press.
One question we hear often is will the new bridge allow bicyclists and pedestrians along with motor vehicles?
But first, let’s mention that the Ambassador Bridge used to allow both on a narrow sidewalk — a sidewalk that is no longer there after the most recent re-decking. Without access to the Tunnel or operating ferry service, bicyclists have no convenient means to cross between the two countries. (Pedestrians can use the Tunnel Bus.) Could the NITC be an answer?
No one knows for certain whether we’ll get bicycles on the NITC as of today, but here’s what the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) says:
The new bridge over the Detroit River and the plaza will be engineered to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and its Canadian counterpart (Customs and Border Services Agency) will determine whether this traffic is allowed. All facilities will be designed to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. This will include sidewalks along the roads to be repaved as part of the project. This will be an upgrade at many facilities as they were built before the ADA requirements were established.
“Engineered to accomodate” is further defined in the 2008 Bridge Structure Study:
Initially, the section consists of three lanes in each direction, with a 1m flush median between travel directions and 3m outside shoulders. A sidewalk is only currently required on the U.S. bound approach to the toll and inspection plaza. This sidewalk is separated from the shoulder with a traffic barrier. A 1.066m metal railing provides fall protection on the outside of the sidewalk.
The designs show this sidewalk is 5.2 feet wide and more like a shared-use path. And having this path on the U.S. bound is smart since bikes and pedestrians will have the best views of both downtown skylines.
There are also 10 foot shoulders on both sides of the bridge.
The bad news? The Study says that if there’s increased motorized traffic, the path would be removed and the shoulders narrowed in order to add more lanes. However, we doubt traffic demands would necessitate that.
This brings up another question. would they allow a cyclist without a passport to pay the bridge toll, bike to the middle of the bridge, enjoy the view, then return back to their respective county?
During the FEIS process, the Michigan Trails and Greenways made these comments and received MDOT responses.
|MTGA Comment||MDOT Response|
|Which AASHTO bicycle facility type would be used [on the new Detroit River bridge], bike lanes or shared lanes||The commenter is referred to the “Detroit River International Crossing Study, Bridge-Type Study Report,” dated January 2007, Revised July 2007. This document is on the project Web site (www.partnershipborder study.com) under U.S. Reports, Bridge Type Study Report. It discusses bike lane options (pages 3 and 29). A final decision on the bicycle treatment will be made in the design phase|
|The report does not address bicycling access from the bridge to the processing area to local surface streets. Shared pathways would likely be acceptable for these connections but not narrow sidewalks per AASHTO’s Guide for the Development of Bicycling Facilities.||The accommodation for bicycles on the new river bridge is likely to be the right shoulder. When exiting the bridge, a bicyclist would remain to the right of traffic and proceed to a separate building near the primary processing booths for vehicles. After processing, there would be an exit to Jefferson Avenue. All of this is subject to the determination of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its Canadian counterpart to allow bicycle use of the new Detroit River bridge.|
|the FEIS. . . does not mention the Corktown-Mexicantown Greenlink, Southwest Detroit greenways, and Fort Street Greenway projects. These project should not be negatively impacted by the DRIC.||MDOT will investigate ways to integrate these projects.|
|It appears the FEIS does not analyze the DRIC impact on the Detroit Non-motorized Transportation Master Plan . . . Any local road reconstruction that has been identified as a bike route should be rebuilt to accommodate bikes per the plan.||MDOT will investigate ways to integrate these projects.|
|The AASHTO U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) has a designated corridor (Route 25) that includes the DRIC. Though the road route has not yet been set, it is likely to follow Fort Street or Jefferson Avenue. It is important that nay DRIC plan consider bicycling access?between this route and the new bridge. This connecting to Canada would be an invaluable addition to the Bicycle Route System||MDOT will investigate ways to integrate these projects.|
|The cities of Detroit and Windsor are actively pursuing improved nonmotorized transportation and greenway trail networks. Connecting these two systems would bring a unique and significant benefit to the Metro Detroit and Windsor communities||Comment acknowledged. As noted in the FEIS Section 126.96.36.199, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, along with its Canadian counterpart, will determine whether pedestrian and bicycle traffic is allowed on the new Detroit River bridge|
Similar comments were made during the Canadian Environmental Assessment process, however they do not appear to have published written responses.