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Posted on Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

New southeast Michigan plans show major transportation projects on the horizon in Washtenaw County

By Ryan J. Stanton


The Washtenaw Area Transportation Study is expecting thousands of new residents and workers coming to Washtenaw County in the years ahead.


Billions of dollars worth of transportation projects in Washtenaw County made the list as the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments adopted new regional plans.

SEMCOG's general assembly voted Thursday to adopt both the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan and the 2014-17 Transportation Improvement Plan for Southeast Michigan.

Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County officials weren't happy to see widening of Interstate 94 in Detroit and Interstate 75 in Oakland County included, but they're embracing other projects.


Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje stands in front of one of the Michigan Department of Transportation's newly refurbished railcars at a recent press conference. Two commuter rail projects are in the works — Ann Arbor to Detroit, and Howell to Ann Arbor.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The 2014-17 TIP shows $800,000 planned for design of WALLY commuter rail stations between Howell and Ann Arbor in 2014. Of that amount, $640,000 is listed as federal and $160,000 is local.

Another $100,000 is shown planned in 2014 for development of a new bike sharing program in Ann Arbor, with federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality — or CMAQ — funding paying for the infrastructure, including kiosks, bikes, software and related items.

Ryan Buck, director of the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study, the agency responsible for overseeing transportation funding in Washtenaw County, said all of the projects included in the regional plans are actually Washtenaw County's own plans adopted by reference.

"So we've identified our own 25 years worth of projects, as well as our own four-year transportation improvement plan," he said. "We focused a lot on identifying regional priorities."

While the long-range plan identifies a broader vision for the coming decades, the four-year plan shows what's actually expected in the shorter term.

Buck said the plan is fiscally constrained, meaning it's based on expected local, state and federal revenues — so it's not just wishful thinking. For example, the $100,000 in CMAQ funding to launch a bike sharing program next year already has been awarded.

"The bike share is a pretty interesting project," he said. "There are significant capital costs in getting it started and operating it, but there are a lot of people interested in seeing it happen."

The plans show millions of dollars in state and federal funding coming to the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority for efforts ranging from preventative maintenance to purchasing new vehicles.

In 2016, $10 million is shown planned ($8 million federal, $2 million local) for the environmental analysis and preliminary engineering phases of the Ann Arbor Connector study for a high-capacity transit system linking the University of Michigan and other major activity centers in the city.

The four-year plan also shows a number of local road projects expected to be funded in 2014, including $3.3 million for reconstruction of Stone School Road from I-94 to Ellsworth (with another $200,000 shown coming in 2016) and $1.76 million for reconstruction of Carpenter Road from Packard to Washtenaw (with another $410,000 shown coming in 2015).

In 2015, $5.18 million is expected to go toward reconstructing Geddes Avenue from Arlington to Huron Parkway, while $3 million goes toward resurfacing Newport Road from Sunset to the city limits with nonmotorized upgrades. Another $700,000 is identified for Border-to-Border Trail improvements.


In 2016, $5.8 million is planned for a long-awaited reconstruction of Stadium Boulevard just west of the new Stadium bridges in Ann Arbor — from Hutchins Avenue to Kipke Drive. Another $1 million in federal funds for the same project is shown coming in 2017.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Also in 2015, $850,000 is planned for widening State Street from two to four lanes from Morgan to Ellsworth. That's a Washtenaw County Road Commission project.

In 2016, $5.8 million is planned for a long-awaited reconstruction of Stadium Boulevard just west of the new Stadium bridges in Ann Arbor — from Hutchins Avenue to Kipke Drive. Another $1 million in federal funds for the same project is shown coming in 2017.

About $526,000 is shown in 2016 for implementation of traffic congestion mitigation strategies on Seventh Street from Scio Church to Miller in Ann Arbor.

Buck said the long-range plan for Washtenaw County contains more than $3 billion worth of improvements for motorists, pedestrians, transit riders, cyclists and freight traffic.

While the plan includes funding for improvements like bike sharing, new transit initiatives and roundabouts, Buck noted the vast majority of capital funding is allocated toward improving and maintaining pavement around the county.

"Additionally, WATS identified $3 billion worth of projects without funding," he added. "The question we must now answer as a region is whether or not we are willing to fund a modern transportation system. Whether or not new revenue is made available, I look forward to working with local communities to implement as many regional transportation priorities as possible."

The WATS long-range plan shows a $13.7 million line item for Washtenaw County's expected costs in 2015 for commuter rail operations between Ann Arbor and Howell, and between Ann Arbor and Detroit, along with connecting bus services. That remains unfunded for now.

Continuation of commuter rail operations from 2016 through 2035 is projected to cost Washtenaw County another $376 million and that also remains unfunded.

The construction of WALLY commuter rail stations in downtown Ann Arbor and near Michigan Stadium are projected to cost $7.3 million in 2020.

Meanwhile, a new east-west rail station, possibly on Fuller Road, is listed as an unfunded project with an estimated $4 million design cost in 2015 and $50 million construction cost in 2016.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:17 p.m.

What about the south entrance to Ann Arbor ??? The intersection of Ann Arbor-Saline Road and I-94 is some of the worst pavement in the county, hasn't been done in more than 20 years, isn't on the schedule for many more years, maybe, and is the main entrance for 100,000 visitors every football Saturday. According to the Washtenaw County Road Commission the total cost to remedy the problem would be around $200,000, shared between the State, city, and county. Isn't it possible to find the money somewhere ??


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:50 a.m.

As long as we can continue to slow traffic and disrupt all activities downtown with frequent street closures, bagged meters, and lengthy construction projects that tie up whole blocks for months and months on end...we'll be right at the forefront of the losing battle to preserve an aging infrastructure.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:38 a.m.

SEMCOG predicts a 42,000 person increase in population and 49,000 new jobs between 2010 and 2040 for Washtenaw County, as depicted in the figure at the beginning of Ryan Stanton's article. The methods used to generate population numbers are not provided. Therefore, no one should consider these numbers as reliable. Unanticipated economic and demographic factors occurring over the next 27 years will certainly change population growth prediction. Also, SEMCOG expects that those aged 60 and above will have increased by 55,471 individuals while those 59 and younger will have decreased by 14,057 individuals by 2040. Those who are 60 years and older represent a more sedentary population less likely to be working and less likely to be commuting. They may need more local transportation support. Unfortunately, as individuals age out of the prime 18 to 59 year old worker category, replacements by younger individuals will be meager and insufficient, with an expected drop in population for the age range of 5,780. This means that a larger percentage of this age group must fill the employment gap. Reeducation and new skill acquisition will be needed to provide qualified workers. (data from ) In summary, SEMCOG projections for population and job growth over the next 27 years can be proven correct only with the passage of time. Meanwhile SEMCOG's projections should not be the basis for designing transportation systems and other services. Expanding our transportation system is unwarranted and its funding will require the loss of city services or marked increase in individual taxation.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 8:06 p.m.

I can't speak to the WALLY project, but I for one am completely thrilled that Carpenter Rd between Washtenaw and Packard is going to be fixed at some point in the future.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 5:27 p.m.

How does the city justify $5.8 million for stadium between the bridge and Pioneer? How was this left out when the bridge was worked on and the equipment was there? With such tight funding these says, it seems a more forward thinking plan could have cut this cost by %75. This type of financial inefficiency is disappointing, and sadly becoming the norm.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 4:37 a.m.

Read again. Understand your error.

Frustrated in A2

Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

So the mayor and city don't like the project helping other SE Michigan communities but are all about the ones helping Ann Arbor. Do our city leaders not leave the city of Ann Arbor or do they think Ann Arbor is the only one that needs improvement???


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

I'm not on a bus line, and live way too far from downtown to walk there. In recent weeks, I've planned visits to events downtown, only to have my envisioned parking lots "full". (Last night, most recently, I wanted to park at Ann and Ashley, and there were lines, just sitting there, to get in at both entrances.) Then I've driven all over, late to my venue, just to find someplace, any place, to put my car. If I could take public transportation, at least sometimes, I would.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 4:43 p.m.

Was the underground library one full? I've never noticed that one full during the day and wondered how it is at night.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

F I X T H E P O T H O L E S N O W ! I have yet to see ONE truck out there in the city filling potholes this spring. Not one. Nada. I guess the potholes will be filled starting in 2015? Unbelievable. Yet, they can create these pie in the sky projects for years to come based on unsubstantiated population and jobs growth.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

49k new jobs in the next 30 years in Washtenaw County? Where are these going to come from? Get real.

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

People in Ann Arbor come from all over. Some actually like it here. All we have to do is get a few to stay instead of looking for work in North Carolina, New York, California, or Texas.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

"Meanwhile, a new east-west rail station, possibly on Fuller Road, is listed as an unfunded project with an estimated $4 million design cost in 2015 and $50 million construction cost in 2016." Why is this still listed as a project at all? Where is the money going to come from?

Roger Kuhlman

Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 2:14 p.m.

WALLY and other mass transit boondoggles are going to do nothing to protect the natural environment in Washtenaw County but will help the Capitalist Crony friends of the Mayor and the liberal Democrat City Council by shovelling them public money and jobs to build and operate these public transit systems. I think it is morally disgraceful for elite special interests to build careers forr themselves and get rich off government money (which is of course public money from all of us) while lying to the Public about how much they are helping the Environment. If we really want to protect the natural environment of Washtenaw County, we will do everything possible to see that we do not add 40,000 people or more to its population in the near future. In terms of its natural resource base, the County is already heavily overpopulated as it is and our natural environment is heavily degraded for the most part. More people only makes the problem of environmental degradation far worse.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 2:02 p.m.

So... $500 million in unfunded requests for commuter rail in the next 7 years - who is going to be picking up that tab?

A A Resident

Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 2:01 p.m.

As far as I can tell, the plan from our benevolent dictators is to make driving such a nightmare, that we will choose alternate forms of transportation. I haven't been very successful so far riding my bicycle in snow, not that I haven't tried.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 12:41 p.m.

I am not against these projects by any means, but we can't put the carts before the horse. Let's take care of fundamental needs first before we go off into these wild adventures.

Roger Kuhlman

Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

Bob, Mass transportation does not work in low density suburban and exurban areas and it is extremely expensive there. History and the facts demonstrate these truths pretty much unequivocally. Those who have true environmental concerns have to think critically and accept the realities that the actual world gives us if they hope to do anything environmentally positive over the long run.

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 2:03 p.m.

It's not clear what you believe is more fundamental than public transportation. These projects have many benefits: they provide jobs for construction workers and engineers, reduce smog and congestion, improve quality of life, and increase the availability of mass transit in a large metropolitan area. Some of the specific projects are questionable, to say the least, but the overall intent is sound.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 6:25 a.m.

Whatever happened to widening I-94 in Ann Arbor west of 23? It's 3 lanes east of 23, but 2 west of 23. That used to be talked about, but I don't hear about it in this plan, and there's huge congestion every day during rush hour.

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 1:46 a.m.

The $850k for widening State Road is only for a study. The construction phase of the project is budgeted for $32M with construction between 2018 and 2030, none of which is funded. By the time this project is funded (if ever), I-94, US-23, and US-12 will be pulverized and require complete reconstruction. All will still be far above capacity, all will still be dangerous and congested. This project gets priority because of the township's creative use of state law to create a Corridor Improvement Authority to divert tax money out of public services and into the open hands of well-connected consultants and developers. Meanwhile, the traffic jam grows in front of the township administration building and the widening of this critical highway is yanked off the table.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 1:34 a.m.

I live on a road on which school buses barrel up the street two times a day, wreaking havoc on the pavement and pulling branches off trees. On one road over calming bumps were installed a year or so ago and now the pavement before and after the bumps is starting to split. At the bottom of the street with bumps, the pavement is also split into tracks from all the buses and cars. I think you just can't win in Ann Arbor. Every time they do something that is a so-called improvement it makes something else worse ie where Stadium merges from 2 lanes to 1 people are always racing to get ahead from the lane that ends. And now we have to wait until 2016 for the stretch of Stadium after the new bridges to be fixed???That road will cave in before then...

A A Resident

Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

Yes, in their infinite wisdom, they decided to create a bottleneck on Stadium, near the Stadium, by reconstructing a section so that what was formerly four lanes is now two. I witness the confusion and aggression of drivers "jockeying for position" while merging at both ends of this section, every day.


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 11:57 p.m.

Explanation for "2014-2017 Transportation Improvement Program for Southeast Michigan" listed expenditures requested (select items): (PDF downloaded from: ) 2014 Ann Arbor State Street Study ................ $2,825,000 2015 AATA RideShare Program ...................... $500,000 2015 Construct Non-Motorized Amenities ....... $283,000 2015 Construct Non-Motorized Path ............... $610,000 2015 Install Traffic Light ................................ $100,000 2016 Plymouth Connector Study .................... $2,000,000 2016 Contract Non-Motorized Amenities ......... $250,000 2016 Install Traffic Light AASalRd at Textile .... $625,000 For some items reason for inclusion is not understood and with other items the cost seem excessive.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 3:01 a.m.

Are bids requested?


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 12:40 a.m.

$2.8M for a State Street Study? I'll do it for $1M!


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 11:51 p.m.

Dadgummit, we don't need paved roads anyhow. If oxcarts and mules were good enough for my great-grandpappy, then by thunder, they're good enough for me. Let's get rid of all these pesky wires running everywhere too. I never did trust that darned electricity.

Scott Reed

Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 10:47 p.m.

So much money wasted on roads. People living in the blighted sprawling asteroid belts of this county should be forced to pay for renovating and expanding the roads. They are a real burden on taxpayers, forcing cities to spread resources over wider geographical areas. Much more should be invested in dense core areas that are actually worth caring about.

Basic Bob

Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 2:07 p.m.

@Scott Reed, You must be saying we should all move back to Detroit. Ann Arbor is well beyond the asteroid belt (maybe Inkster or Wayne?)


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 11:26 p.m.

Those darn roads! Letting trucks bring Brie and endive to Whole Foods; Smoothie fixings to the People's Coop; Artists to the Ark; assorted wines to Plum Market; Salami to Zingerman's; and all those pesky farmers to the market at Kerrytown. Let's close 'em all!


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 10:52 p.m.

So how far away from downtown do we have to live to be in your asteroid belt? Two blocks? Six blocks? And you do realize that only a tiny sliver of the city's population lives downtown, right?

David Cahill

Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 10:13 p.m.

People following SEMCOG will recognize that this group has a history of wildly over-predicting growth for Washtenaw County. Such an over-prediction in the last decade led the City Council to adopt the unfortunate Calthorpe plan with its emphasis on "density"; i.e., big buildings.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 1:45 a.m.

No kidding. I sure hope SEMCOG has at least reset their models. They should put error bars on their forecasts. I don't necessarily mind the density, but they base their future road capacity on those same forecasts, which sets up a self-fulfilling prophecy. They forecast congestion, expand the road to deal with their forecast, and developers are usually more than happy to build to fill the road back up. Worked great until the housing bubble burst.


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 9:54 p.m.

No WALLY! Tell the Livingstonians to get Mike Rogers and their tea party buddies to make them some jobs there.


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

When you're playing with other people's money, this is all you need to spend millions of dollars: "There are significant capital costs in getting it started and operating it, but there are a lot of people interested in seeing it happen." When you're responsible and are held accountable, you see something more like this: "There are significant capital costs in getting it started and operating it, but we've analyzed this being done in several other areas with the same type of population. We looked at where it failed and why, and where it succeeded and why. We have done the research using data that's been put together by people who've actually done this, and we've gotten competeitve bids on potential projects from numerous sources, whom we've vetted using their past work. It seems like unless something is very wrong with our numbers, which we double checked, this will be able to either break even or pay for itself within 5 years." OR "We looked into this carefully and thoroughly, and it seems like there's no real benefit that would outweight the cost. Especially given the existing interest by private parties to runa business similar to this anyway." I'd like to less of the former "it'll cost a lot and when we do it, I think people will like it" and more of the "I don't want to just wastye a bunch of money in case I'm not right." Wouldn't that be nice?


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 8:53 p.m.

Stop the Wally! While federal dollars and perhaps some state dollars will construct the WALLY, maintenance and operating costs must be paid with local dollars, most likely from a new millage. Ryan Stanton noted in a previous article that: "It's estimated about 1,300 riders each way per day would use a commuter rail service between Ann Arbor and Howell." And "The total estimated operating cost is about $7.1 million annually." Furthermore, "Benham said much of that would be covered by passenger fares plus an assumed level of state operating funds, resulting in a local share of about $2.2 million. So-called "wild cards" that could affect operating costs are insurance and trackage rights, he said." (NOTE: "effect" meaning "increase") Also Vivian Armentrout observes that "The fares would, for example, bring in about $2.9 M in Year 5, but operating expenses would be about $8.2 M; over the 10-year period, there would be a shortfall of about $1 M per year even though the estimate assumes both state and Federal funding and local subsidies." The small number of commuters and the significant recurring costs for local tax payers should be sufficient reason to stop any further development of the WALLY and to preserve local tax payer money.


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 8:52 p.m.

Forget choo-choo trains , nonmotorized paths, round abouts, zebra or anyother crossings , just fix the damn roads....


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.

I hope there is also a station between Howell and Ann Arbor near US23. I already know several people who come from outlying areas (including Howell) and take a bus from south of Brighton to Ann Arbor just to avoid the congestion of getting into town. We would do that, too. If you doubt the potential, try getting from anywhere in Pinckney to anywhere in Ann Arbor during the weekday morning commute. There is not just ease of the commute, there is ease of not paying for parking once here.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 4:23 p.m.

That is very true - Dexter to A2 is likewise a nightmare.


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 7:51 p.m.

Couple comments I have seen some success with bike sharing programs in Europe. I have some concerns when one sees how bicycles are so abused in A2, but for $100,000 it is worth trying in my opinion. As for the millions of dollars for Wally, (the $800,000 is only for designing a station in Howelll and another in A2)I can't imagine it being successful (getting lots of ridership.) I hope it doesn't go through. Waste of fedeal and local tax dollars.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 7:44 p.m.

There are far too many projects in the plans to mention all of them in a single story, so I hope people take the time to download the plans themselves using the links provided in the story. If you're looking at the SEMCOG regional plans, it helps to do a keyword search for "Washtenaw County."


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 7:30 p.m.

before you troll: "The vast majority of capital funding is allocated toward improving and maintaining pavement around the county." i.e. not bikes and trains. pavement.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 7:49 p.m.

Look below. Trolls never meet a fact they can't simply ignore.


Fri, Jun 21, 2013 : 9:52 p.m.

Bikes don't ride on the pavement?