DETROIT—A lot has happened in Detroit since 2000, when the Federal Highway Administration approved a plan for I-375 calling for extension of the freeway ramps south of Jefferson to terminate at Atwater Street.
That project was never built, and the intervening years have seen the whole area take on a decidedly more pedestrian-friendly orientation with developments such as the Dequindre Cut, the Detroit RiverWalk, new developments at Eastern Market, relocation of thousands of Blue Cross Blue Shield, Rock Financial, and General Motors employees to the Central Business District, and the opening of Campus Martius, Ford Field and Comerica Park.
Recognizing the new challenges and opportunities facing the area, the Downtown Development Authority released a Request for Qualifications and Proposals on Oct. 24 to procure an alternatives feasibility analysis for the I-375 corridor. The study area includes the Gratiot Avenue connector at I-75 at the north end, extends south to the GM Center on the Detroit River, and includes East Jefferson to Dequindre and the I-375 service drive.
The planning project will evaluate the feasibility of alternatives for I-375 that complement and support the emerging pedestrian-oriented development around it, including defining a more vibrant entryway into Downtown Detroit and the East Riverfront, enhanced pedestrian, transit and non-motorized transportation connectivity, alignment with the Detroit Future City plan, and financial concepts to improve infrastructure and determine value for residual land.
“We anticipate a significant amount of riverfront development in the future,” said Will Tamminga, director of project management at the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and staff to the Downtown Development Authority. “General Motors is anticipating gearing up for redeveloping some if its residual properties on the waterfront, and we have this outstanding, fully vetted design that we are asking if it is still appropriate, given what we now know to be very different kinds of development pressures today.”
In April, MDOT announced its interest in exploring the feasibility of creating a pedestrian-friendly boulevard along I-375. Since that time, multiple downtown stakeholders have been convening to initiate a planning project that will identify the feasibility of that and other potential approaches to transforming the corridor, according to Tamminga. The road is currently in need of over $80 million in maintenance and repairs, and no funding has been allocated by MDOT for that work.
“So MDOT partnered with some of the foundations and local nonprofit entities in town, and the Downtown Development Authority to resurrect the scope of work and issue this new RFP,” said Tamminga. “We all agreed that we should start to examine different alternatives to make sure we arrive at the best alternative in order to satisfy all the needs of every stakeholder and property owner interest that touches upon or is influenced by I-375.”
Funding from the project is coming from MDOT, local foundations, and corporate interests. A technical team of representatives from the DDA, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, MDOT, and FHWA will review the proposals, which are due Nov. 14.