Last night, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) voted to approve the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan for Southeast Michigan. Overall, Let’s Save Michigan is supportive of the goals of the plan, including the need for some major investments in I-94 and I-75, which anyone who has driven will understand. In addition to crumbling pavement along these stretches, a number of bridges need critical repair. But the plan also includes what we believe is an unnecessary and in fact harmful expansion of these stretches of highway that will further disconnect neighborhoods. On top of that, capacity expansion usually tends to lead to the phenomenon of increased demand—over time, congestion returns exactly to the previous levels. Finally, while the exact costs of doing the expansion versus simply doing the maintenance portion of the plan are not itemized, it’s clear that the expansion adds hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost. I’m pretty sure Michigan has some other crumbling roads it could repair with that money.
Others have also written about why this plan is misguided:
“Build It Bigger: A 20th Century Solution to a 21st Century Challenge on I-94 and I-75”
“A Highway Runs Through It”
“Opposing Views: Why the I-94 Expansion would be a Step Backward”
Following the public comment, Detroit Council Member Gary Brown proposed that the two items that were the subject of so much public comment—the expansion plans to these two highways, which includes bridge removal—be removed from the vote for further consideration. Council Member Brown’s proposed amendment was voted down, and the plan was passed as originally proposed—including with the highway expansions.
We were there and live-tweeting—check our feed here. And while those who gave public comment did not get SEMCOG to vote differently from expected, they were some of the most thoughtful, cogent, polite, forward-looking public comments that maybe the world has ever seen at a public meeting. I was proud of those citizens who gave up their afternoon to participate in democracy—and think we haven’t seen the last of this decision. Onward, friends!