Transit talks leave out Eight Mile Road

Transit talks leave out Eight Mile Road

PHOTO: J Singleton

Editor's note: Mode Shift talked to Tami Salisbury, executive director of Eight Mile Boulevard Association, about what the association is doing to improve quality of life along one of our region’s most infamous streets. This is part two of a three-story series on Eight Mile Road, and the good work of 8MBA.

DETROIT—Eight Mile Road is still the fastest way to travel east and west if you’re not cruising I-696. Cars and buses travel this route frequently, and Tami Salisbury, executive director of 8MBA says that fact is often ignored when transportation schemers and dreamers are at the table.

“Regarding transportation plans for Detroit, Eight Mile has been left out of the picture,” says Salisbury. “We’ve been vocal about that. The latest is talking about mass transit lines that would go up Woodward to M-59 and then down to Gratiot.”

Salisbury says there are more rooftops along Eight Mile Road than along Woodward or M-59. And, she says that bus ridership numbers along M-59 are not anywhere near the ridership numbers along Eight Mile Road.

"Eight Mile Boulevard Association and all of our member communities are very concerned that we seem to be left out of the transit discussion.” ~Tami Salisbury

“I’ve been inquiring about who is making these decisions, and I keep being told that nothing is definitive yet,” Salisbury notes. “Then why are they announcing these things if nothing is definitive? Eight Mile Boulevard Association and all of our member communities are very concerned that we seem to be left out of the transit discussion.”

Salisbury says that her biggest fear is that public money will be invested in something that fails. “As a tax-paying citizen, I have a great concern about that. Are a couple wealthy individuals dictating an entire transportation system or are we making decisions based on ridership numbers?”

As Salisbury continues to voice her concerns over the public transportation debates, 8MBA is working with DDOT to improve current conditions at bus stops. Funds remain from a $3.4 million grant received in 2000 to renovate all 200 bus stops along both sides of Eight Mile Road and revamp the terminals at Eastland Center, Northland Center and the State Fair Grounds. SMART, DDOT, 8MBA and MDOT partnered on the original application, but when Salisbury got on board in 2003, the project was stalled. She’s been moving it forward ever since.

Salisbury says that most of bus stops along Eight Mile Road have been revamped, but some need more work. “The execution was not great,” she says. The association recently finished an inventory of every bus stop, indicating where trashcans are missing or full, where signs are bent, or where shelters are damaged. She hopes remaining grant funds can be used to improve bus stops.

In the case of the terminal renovations, the State Fair Ground terminal is finished, but the Eastland Center and Northland Center terminals remain undone.

“There is $800,000 left and we’re going to partner together to get the things that remain undone, done."

Meanwhile, pedestrian and bike issues are also being considered. Salisbury has encouraged MDOT to incorporate pedestrian crossings into their plans.

“You’ll see at Woodward and Eight Mile Road how there is colored stamped concrete at crossings to make drivers more aware that this is a crossing,” says Salisbury. She says this was continued in the work at Southfield and Eight Mile Road and new construction at Beech Daly and Inkster.

Salisbury says that she has requested that MDOT incorporate streetscape enhancements that create more pedestrian safety as it's doing transportation enhancements like the resurfacing between Grand River and Telegraph.

For bikers who would like to use Eight Mile Road to traverse east and west without high risk of accident and injury, there may be hope in the far-off future.

“We’ve been involved in a few studies and MDOT has been involved in those studies where a road diet has come up,” says Salisbury. “We continue to evaluate that option.”

From an economic development perspective, Salisbury says that data supports reducing Eight Mile Road by one lane on each side. “A road diet would slow down traffic and make the storefronts a lot more attractive.”

Should Eight Mile Road be part of regional transit plans? Tell us how you feel in the comments below.