Detroit’s Regional Planners Need to Kick the Highway Habit

by Angie Schmitt

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. But the people who shape the future of greater

The last thing greater Detroit needs is $4 billion worth of freeways. Image:

The last thing greater Detroit needs is $4 billion worth of freeways. Image:

Detroit — despite all the urban flight, sprawl, and decline they’ve seen – just can’t seem to acknowledge that they have an addiction to big highway projects. On the agenda Thursday for the regional planning commission, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, are two highway expansion plans that will cost an astounding $4 billion combined.

On the one hand, some Detroit power players are starting to embrace sustainable transportation. Regional leaders

recently brought together urban and suburban officials to create the first unified regional transit system for the area. The city of Detroit is working to add 100 miles of bike lanes this year. And then there are the plans for downtown light rail and bus rapid transit to the suburbs. Efforts like those provide hope that the Detroit region will reverse its decline and emerge stronger than ever.

But amid the signs of progress are two highway projects that threaten to undermine the region’s recovery. The worst of the two, perhaps, is the $2.7 billion plan to widen I-94 through Midtown. SEMCOG and the political leaders who appoint its members apparently believe that ramming more than half a dozen new highway lanes through one of the city’s most promising neighborhoods will help stabilize Detroit.