MDOT was resurfacing Northwestern Highway this year and did something quite unexpected. They converted the road’s 12 foot paved shoulders to buffered bike lanes.
Originally this road from Inkster to 14 Mile had a 12 foot asphalt shoulder. That shoulder is now a 7 foot bike lanes with a 5 foot painted buffer. Is it ideal for families? Of course not, but many cyclists will find it a comfortable and safe place to ride in spite of the road’s 50 MPH speed limit.
We’ve encouraged MDOT to pursue similar designs on other state roads, but especially in Detroit where there are lower vehicle traffic and under-utilized vehicle travel lanes.
Also, we submitted the new bike lane information to Google Maps for approval.
Why Northwestern Highway?
As we see it, these bike lanes came about for three reasons.
First, the state’s Complete Streets policy encourages MDOT to add biking facilities to its roads.
Second, area cyclists were riding this road segments and had written to MDOT asking for an improved signs to better accommodate cycling. Well, MDOT did better than that. The key was letting MDOT know cyclists were already using Northwestern Highway. This provided documented justification for making the improvement.
Third, there was already a wide, paved shoulder. That made this retrofit very cost effective. The total cost was $21,855 on what was likely a million-some dollar project.
“To me, this would be an exciting opportunity to put pedestrians and cyclists back and forth along the water,” Masse said. “Detroit has a marvellous waterfront now. They’ve worked hard on it and need to be commended for it. Ours, of course, is really nice and has been remodelled recently. This could be an exciting time to share both of our cultures again.”
“I think that allowing passenger travel on ferry and bicycles included would also help the interest in cycle tourism. We have a number of trails to be enjoyed by cycle tourists and obviously this would eliminate the hassle of parking, crossing an international border at the tunnel or the bridge.”
It sounds like we’ve got the message out about the importance of this crossing, at least on the Canadian side.
What about the new bridge?
Progress continues to be made on a new Detroit/Windsor bridge – the NITC.
On the Windsor side, bicycle advocates are now making sure Canadian Customs is prepared to handle bike and pedestrian traffic. They also want to ensure their new greenways connect with the bridge. MTGA submitted comments to U.S. and Canadian officials asking that greenways are connected to the bridge.
Do cyclists need a bridge and ferry service? We think so. The bridge would be a 24/7 option, but it comes with a steep price – a steep climb. It’s also located a short distance away from the riverfront trails and downtowns. Ferry service would be more centrally located and you’d only have to climb on board a boat. However, ferry service might not be available year round. The bridge would also provide some amazing views.
Bridge path a greenway?
Also, one suggestion is to create a name for this trail connecting Detroit and Windsor. Something like the International Freedom Trail sounds much better than just calling it the bike path on the bridge. Who could be against a trail with a name like that?
The Training Wheels program is an invaluable training that provides insight on how to redesign roads to better accommodate cyclists. It’s beneficial to the seasoned planner as well as the casual cyclist looking to make their city more bike friendly. The costs vary but are minimal (e.g. River Rouge is $15.)
Here is the press release from MDOT:
MDOT promotes on-road bicycling facilities
June 18, 2012 — The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is sponsoring “Training Wheels” courses around the state designed to educate communities interested in providing on-road bicycle facilities for their residents and visitors. The five-hour course includes both classroom and outdoor instruction. The courses will be offered in the following areas:
July 16 in Alma
July 17 in St. Ignace
July 18 in Ferndale
July 19 in River Rouge
July 20 in Kalamazoo
“Training Wheels” shows communities how to integrate bike facilities into existing infrastructure to make bicycling safe and convenient, providing alternate transportation that makes roads more complete for everyone. Classroom instruction using a guide produced by the American Association for State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is followed by an on-road, on-bike portion. The outdoor segment provides participants a firsthand look at the benefits of providing an alternative mode of travel that does not require expensive facilities for communities to build or maintain.
The “Training Wheels” courses are intended for city, township or county managers; council members; engineers; and related design and planning staff. The course is eligible for five Professional Development hours for professional engineers. Advance registration only. A bicycle and helmet are required – please notify local host if needed, since limited equipment may be available. Registration deadline is June 28.
What is the status of getting roll-on bicycle service for Michigan’s Amtrak trains?
MDOT told us we’d have it over a year ago. That didn’t happen.
A March article on MLive showed that Amtrak isn’t even close on this and that it’s become a bigger issue beyond Michigan.
“We’re committed — in new equipment purchases there will be space for bicycles,” [Amtrak Chairman Thomas] Carper said. “How we retrofit old equipment that’s going to be phased out over the next two, three, four, five years — some of the equipment is older than I am. So there’s a balance, a cost balance in there. How we retrofit, there’s some engineering things that need to be taken into consideration.”
He added that upgrading Michigan’s rail service for bicycles could likely come as part of an upgrade across the entire Midwest Amtrak fleet.
Last week MDOT released a press released on the U.S. DOT’s plans to buy 130 new rail cars, 25 of which would be used on Amtrak’s Michigan lines.
Rail car manufacturers across the country will have an opportunity to submit bids to produce the first American-made, standardized passenger rail cars, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today.
The $551 million Request for Proposals (RFP) to manufacture approximately 130 new bi-level passenger rail cars in America comes from a groundbreaking multi-state effort to jointly purchase standardized rail equipment to be used on Amtrak’s intercity routes in California, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, and potentially Iowa.
These new railcars “will also offer greater bicycle storage.”
Bids are due in a little over a month and the new rail cars will be delivered starting in mid-2015.
What we don’t know is how many existing railcars will be retrofitted to provide roll-on service sooner.
That grant wasn’t funded though the city was told by one congressional office that it scored near the top.
The City is submitting an improved version of the grant request this round.
One interesting wrinkle this time is it appears the M1 Rail group is applying for a $25 million TIGER IV grant as well. Even though it would be from the transit portion of TIGER IV, it’s unlikely two big grants would come to Detroit.
[U.S. DOT Secretary Ray] LaHood said in January the government will consider awarding Detroit’s light-rail project up to $25 million on top of $25 million awarded for a bus rapid transit system.
LaHood told The Detroit News he is willing to offer additional government money if the M-1 light rail coalition can show it is financially viable.
Congressional aides said the M-1 plan assumes it will win the $25 million grant, which the FTA says is not certain.
The Detroit News is reporting the the U.S. DOT has “serious concerns” about the M1 Rail’s viability. The Detroit Free Press reports a more moderate response.
…while no decision has been made, there is skepticism in Washington, including concerns that the M-1 plan’s cost estimate — at $125 million — is too low and that the group of private investors won’t pull together enough private financing to qualify for a $25-million federal grant for the project.
Of course the other issue with M1 Rail and bicycling is their plan to run the street cars along the curbs. As we’ve said before, curbside alignments are problematic for cyclists and Complete Streets advocates.
Seattle cyclists sue
The street car tracks are a major safety issue and liability. At least a half-dozen Seattle cyclists have lawsuits against the city for crashes due to street car rails. We spoke with an attorney handling these cases and they said this would be a class action lawsuit if their office had the capacity to organize such an effort.
Does MDOT really want to open themselves up to that?
There are safety concerns for bicycle users with [the curbside designs] due to the potential for bicycle tires to be caught within the rail flange space in the road. While alternative rail types may reduce this potential conflict, it cannot be fully mitigated.
Of course the odds are that neither project will receive the funding. It’s a hyper-competitive grant source.
Then again, Michigan’s only successful TIGER III grant was a road to a landfill, so anything is possible.