Regional mass transit effort expands to include all of Woodward Ave.

An effort to further study and coordinate mass transit options for the Woodward Avenue corridor from Detroit to Birmingham has expanded to include all of Woodward from the Detroit River to Pontiac.

Originally, the four-month-old group effort that includes the Oakland County Woodward-area suburbs of Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Huntington Woods, Royal Oak, Berkley and Birmingham focused on extending a mass transit line that would end at Woodward and 8 Mile to Birmingham. But a $2 million federal transportation grant, a change in design of the Woodward light rail line in Detroit, as well as a push by state and federal officials to create a truly regional rapid mass transit system for southeast Michigan broadened the focus area to include the entire 27-mile stretch of Woodward.

The Michigan Suburbs Alliance, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the Woodward Avenue Action Association are working with the original steering committee and inviting all other communities along the route to join in. There will also be opportunity for public input as the planning process moves along.

The grant comes from the Federal Transportation Administration and pays for what's known as an Alternative Analysis, a required part of any mass transit development. It comes after the state legislature passed a bill to create an RTA, a Regional Transportation Authority that would cover Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties and coordinate local bus systems and oversee creation of a rapid transit network. SEMCOG will manage the grant and work to ensure that any plans to come out of the broader effort coordinate with all other work underway in the region.

The larger focus comes as mass transit planners and proponents in Detroit have changed plans for a Woodward light rail line to a downtown circulator system.

Heather Carmona, executive director of the Woodward Avenue Action Association, says the effort goes beyond transit. “We’re working with the cities to make Woodward work for everyone who travels along it, and at connecting all transportation modes to economic development opportunities.”

Richard Murphy, transportation director at the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, says in a statement announcing the new, broader approach: “Detroit and the Oakland County suburbs recognize that better transit on Woodward will spur economic development both north and south of Eight Mile—but they need a regional transit authority to build and run the system. Governor (Rick) Snyder has proposed that the RTA work towards a rapid transit network including Woodward Avenue, and this alternatives analysis will let them move quickly towards that goal."

Source: Carmine Palombo, director of transportation planning, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and Lori Elia Miller, marketing and communications manager, Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: Kim North Shine
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