Regional mass transit, road improvement plans discussed at town hall

Photo by Zeinab Najm. State Reps. Julie Plawecki (D-Dearborn Heights, left), Leslie Love (D-Detroit), George Darany (D-Dearborn) and Frank Liberati (D-Allen Park) provide information on regional transportation, funding and constriction during a town hall meeting at the Eton Senior Recreation Center June 21.

Photo by Zeinab Najm. State Reps. Julie Plawecki (D-Dearborn Heights, left), Leslie Love (D-Detroit), George Darany (D-Dearborn) and Frank Liberati (D-Allen Park) provide information on regional transportation, funding and constriction during a town hall meeting at the Eton Senior Recreation Center June 21.

(Editor’s note: The following story was published before the death June 25 of state Rep. Julie Plawecki.)

By ZEINAB NAJM
Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — Plans for a reliable regional mass transit system in southeast Michigan was the hot topic during a town hall meeting at the Eton Senior Recreation Center June 21.

Challenges facing the current transportation system include crossing local borders, infrequent and unreliable service, safe and secure transit and lack of modern rapid transit options.
The proposed plan will connect Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland and Macomb counties with bus, rail and streetcar transit.

Bus rapid transit will connect main corridors, regional rail will link Detroit and Ann Arbor and new cross-county connectors will reduce transfers between stops.

Benefits include regional fare card, fewer transfers, reduced wait times, coordinated transit services, expanded transportation and transit amenities.

Through the regional plan, transit will be provided to over 946,150 jobs, over 1,125,450 residents, 23 colleges and 310 schools, 22 hospitals, over 100 grocery stores, 410 parks and 47 libraries.

“The regional transit plan has the opportunity to connect people to entertainment, work, medical appointments or needs, recreation, retail and education,” said Tiffany Gunter, deputy CEO and chief operations officer for the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan. “Our plan has been under development for a year, holding meetings to understand the needs and wants of residents.”

A para-transit service expansion is planned for seniors and others with disabilities to provide a seamless system.

Voters in Wayne, Oakland, Washtenaw and Macomb counties will be asked in the Nov. 8 general election to approve a 1.2 mill property tax increase to fund the plan. The millage is a $1.20 property tax for every $1,000 of assessed value of a house.

On a home appraised at $200,000, an additional $120 per year will be added for the tax over the 20-year life of the tax. It is expected to generate $2.9 billion.

Overall the regional transit plan is projected to support 67,800 regional jobs, add $6 billion gross regional product and support increase in personal income of $4.4 billion for all four counties.

“Support is needed in order to truly commit to the regional transit plan,” meeting co-host state Rep. Julie Plawecki (D-Dearborn Heights) said. “Funding will aid fixing our deteriorating roads and improve public transportation.”

MDOT Taylor Transportation Service Center Manager Gorette Yung presented a five-year plan for roads from 2016 through 2020.

For 2016, concrete inlay on I-275 between Five Mile Road and I-696, I-94 bridge work and concrete patches from Wayne Road to Beech Daly, M-39 concrete patching and resurface from Ford Road to I-94 and traffic sign updates on M-39, US-12 and M-153 are scheduled.
Total costs will be over $82 million when completed.

Plans in 2017 and 2018 call for work on I-75 over the Rouge River, Fort Street, and Goddard, Northline, Allen, Eureka, West and Gibraltar roads; railroad work over M-39; concrete patching on Ann Arbor Road from Farmington Road to Telegraph; and signal modernization on Michigan Avenue, Telegraph and Ford Road totaling over $154 million.

Finally, 2019 construction on Ann Arbor Road near Hines Drive will be completed for $14 million.

“Fixing deteriorating roads is just as essential as maintaining our roads in good condition,” Yung said.

Southeast Michigan invests $69 per capita in transit operating spending, the lowest compared to other metropolitan regions including Atlanta and Chicago.

“Transportation is always a topic of discussion in our area and state,” meeting host state Rep. Frank Liberati (D-Allen Park) said. “It is important to inform and educate residents on the constant changes happening.”

“This town hall is a good way to gage what the public is thinking and what their concerns are,” meeting co-host state Rep. Darany (D-Dearborn) said. “We can inform residents and take their feedback back to Lansing for improvement.”

More information on the plan is available at rtamichigan.org.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at zeinabnajm92@gmail.com.)