Photo: City of Royal Oak
Members of Royal Oak's city commission have made it clear they aren't fans of the planned expansion of I-75. On Monday they voted unanimously to adopt a resolution opposing the controversial project in anticipation of a possible vote this week by the Southeast Michigan Council of Goverments that could speed up its timeline.
This summer, SEMCOG's general assembly voted to approve widenings of the I-75 and I-94 expressways as part of its 2040 regional transportation plan. The Michigan Department of Transportation plans to bring several amendments before its executive committee on Friday that would allow the renovations to begin moving forward.
The I-75 project would cover an area of the highway between 8 Mile Road and M-59 in Oakland County, running through Royal Oak, Hazel Park, Troy, Madison Heights and a number of other nearby communities. Plans call for an expansion of the existing highway from three to four lanes in both directions as well as roadway repairs and a reworking of interchanges.
Royal Oak's resolution opposes any acceleration of the I-75 widening, and requests that both it and the I-94 expansion "be excluded from [SEMCOG's] 2040 Long-Range Plan, and funding redirected towards other needs, until such time as their utility is re-examined in the light of current transportation and funding conditions." It argues that the expansion could lead to "displacement of residents, destruction of local tax base, loss of property value, increases in traffic noise, aggravated air pollution, and continued disinvestment" in the city.
MDOT has said that I-94 and I-75 are outdated and need to be modernized. The agency believes the projects will be a boon for the region's economy, bringing revenue to Southeast Michigan through increased trade and job creation.
During the Dec. 2 commission meeting, Commissioner Michael Fournier, one of the motion's sponsors, said he couldn't think of a good reason for supporting the widening and hoped his motion would influence SEMCOG's executive committee to reconsider the need for the project.
Commissioner Kyle DuBuc, his co-sponsor was more forceful in his remarks.
"This proposal could actually do harm to our community through the increased neglect of our existing infrastructure, continuing to encourage sprawl [and] making it easier to drive past our urban centers," he said. "It's not just that there's no benefit. It would actually be detrimental to our community."
Mayor Jim Ellison agreed, adding his concern that the reconstruction of an interchange with I-696 would negatively impact traffic patterns in surrounding neighborhoods.
Tensions between Metro Detroit's inner-ring suburbs and outlying communities were also raised. Commissioner Peggy Goodwin shared her thoughts on the regional impact of the expansion -- and pointedly asked that Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, a supporter of the widenings, be given a copy of the resolution.
"There's more and more empirical evidence that roads cause traffic, and the more you expand the more traffic you bring in," she said. "If you choose to live north of M-59 and to commute to Detroit, I think that's a lifestyle choice, but I don't think our community should have to sacrifice because of somebody's lifestyle choice."
SEMCOG's executive committee will take up MDOT's amendments to the I-94 at their Dec. 6 meeting, which will take place at 1 p.m. at 1001 Woodward, Suite 1400.
Are you a Southeast Michigan resident with strong opinions on the I-94 or I-75 widenings? Be sure to contact your local electged officials this week and let them know how you feel.