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Posted on Wed, Feb 1, 2012 : 6:47 p.m.

Michigan House approves bill that would allow Washtenaw Avenue improvements across jurisdictions

By Paula Gardner

Michigan's House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the bill that would allow creation of a Corridor Improvement Authority for Washtenaw Avenue.

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Washtenaw Avenue in Ann Arbor.

HB 5142 would allow four jurisdictions - Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and the townships of Pittsfield and Ypsilanti - to create the authority.

It now moves to the state Senate for approval.

If finalized, the CIA would be allowed to divert property taxes in the district to specific improvements on the corridor, which stretches from the Water Tower in Ypsilanti west to Stadium Boulevard in Ann Arbor. It also could levy a special assessment or issue revenue bonds.

A governing board would be established with up to three members from each municipality.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Rep. Mark Ouimet and supported by Democrat Jeff Irwin.

The effort started in 2008 as Reimagining Washtenaw Avenue. By September 2010, local leaders started to focus on the option of pursuing the tax-capture authority.



Fri, Feb 3, 2012 : 4:07 a.m.

Paula, can you explain why the municipalities thought this legislation was necessary? Specifically, what is the difference between four individual authorities using an urban cooperation agreement to operate jointly, as the act already allowed, and forming a single joint authority? It sounds like a joint authority is a way to insulate the authority from having someone back out if new elected officials decide there are more pressing issues in their town than Washtenaw bike paths. You know, removing the possibility that the will of the people might somehow trump the Sim-City delusions of the central planners.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Fri, Feb 3, 2012 : 1:16 a.m.

Because the DDA is working out so well? Another authority that will funnel taxpayer money to businessmen with virtually no taxpayer oversight. Hopefully someone in Lansing is smart enough to kill this thing. I know. Fat chance that. Good Night and Good Luck

Peter Eckstein

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

I'm all for inter-jurisdictional cooperation but, please, not another TIFF sapping our future tax base to implement the desire of our omnipresent "planners" to make our city more like Berkeley, Boulder or Portland. One of their big ideas is to create more "density" along Washtenaw, which would only make the traffic problem worse. The myth of TIFF is that all the additional tax revenue from a zone is generated because of the spending by the TIFF, whereas much of it would occur without one, and it is very hard to figure out how much. The biggest problem on Washtenaw is traffic, primarily between East Stadium and US 23, all of which is within Ann Arbor. If the city does not have--or cannot hire--imaginative traffic engineers who can figure out a way to move the cars along more quickly during peak hours, all of the businesses on W will continue to suffer. Bicycle lanes, special bus lanes and pedestrian paths will only make it worse if they narrow the already too-narrow road. Like it or not, people will not ride their bikes to get from central AA to US 23 and on to Brighton, Lansing, airport or Detroit--and very few will do it to get to Arborland. Getting all bus stops off the road so that they do not block cars will help--even if this requires eminent domain to create a bus stop at Arborland. But can't this sort of thing be done without new diversion of tax dollars to some authority that will find ways to spend it whether needed or not? Let's cut down the number of buckets, not add one more. Rather than create some new spending authority with earmarked tax dollars, let some intergovernmental body recommend improvements that it thinks will pay for themselves in greater property tax revenues later. If City Council finds this plausible, it can authorize the improvements within Ann Arbor and keep score on how much the revenues actually increase. That would operate as a reality test by which to judge any later requests for improvements.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

I'm sure they'll consult with a traffic engineer (maybe the same one who did Stadium Blvd.) and he'll determine that we need to eliminate one lane and add more bike paths. I can guarantee there will be bike paths. The roads are going to become obsolete in this town; once they're bad enough people will choose to leave there cars at home and ride bikes. That seems to be the long term vision of Ann Arbortopia


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

Tax and spend republicans what else can you say. Granholm looked like a miser compared to Synder and crew.

Ron Granger

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

I think I have a solution! Can't we just block Washtenaw East of US-23 and Carpenter with the Green Belt and be done with it? You know, massive trees, shrubs, brambles, bushes. Maybe even a moor that sucks ne'er-do-wells down into a bog, where they would slowly decay for for eons. Perhaps a shrubbery. One that looks nice.

Ron Granger

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

&quot;That plan calls for a &quot;Washtenaw Corridor&quot; connector that would extend from the Jackson-Wagner intersection (yes, west side of Ann Arbor) all the way to the Ypsilanti water tower. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> The connector would be a &quot;high-capacity&quot; line that could be anything from a light rail to a Bus Rapid Transit line.&quot; Let them use I-94. I really don't want to bring the crime of Ypsilanti to Ann Arbor. And I don't want to turn Stadium into Washtenaw. Stadium has a pretty good character as you get away from Ypsi.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

You are certainly right, Ann Arbor has enough crime of its own and a dwindling police force.

Ron Granger

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

My wallet shudders! I think Ann Arbor is going a fair job of holding up their portion of the coridor - west of I-23. As for the rest, I Just Don't Care. This seems like it will result in a giant siphon of cash from Ann Arbor to Ypsi and Pittsfield township.

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

There is a broader significance to this, which is reflected in the Transit Master Plan (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. That plan calls for a &quot;Washtenaw Corridor&quot; connector that would extend from the Jackson-Wagner intersection (yes, west side of Ann Arbor) all the way to the Ypsilanti water tower. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> The connector would be a &quot;high-capacity&quot; line that could be anything from a light rail to a Bus Rapid Transit line. In the Financial Task Force report that was not yet released (but I obtained a preview, see <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> $2 million is budgeted for capital expenses for this project in the next 5 years. The idea is that this connector system would eventually replace some of our regular bus service along this&quot;corridor&quot;.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 11:40 a.m.

Everytime I drive Ford Road in Canton I wonder why they were able to do it so much better...

joe golder

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

They had a plan!


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 5:54 a.m.

Everyone should read the Washtenaw Corridor Authority's plans which include several speculative commercial buildings and a speculative residential building, Arbor Hills Crossing. The latter will not bring any financial benefit to Ann Arbor because the developers are being given a 15 year TIF deferment to offset the cost of Brownfield remediation. The commercial developments may join several other unoccupied commercial buildings along Washtenaw Avenue including several at Arborland and at the intersection of Washtenaw Avenue and Huron Parkway. Furthermore, creating a median along Washtenaw Avenue that may have trees and greenery or a tram train will only increase vehicle congestion and impede traffic movement rather than expediting movement along the corridor as was the initial intention. The creation of the Washtenaw Corridor Improvement Authority guarantees that Ann Arbor taxes will increase so that developers, contractors and architects will receive financial gifts to entice their involvement in creating commercial projects with little chance of success. Only a few will profit while the rest of Ann Arbor gains nothing.

Steve Pierce

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 4:23 a.m.

Oh perfect. One more way that money is siphoned out of the general fund in the City of Ypsilanti. Fewer cops, more medians. Cheers! - Steve

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 3:01 a.m.

Because the DDA is working out so well? Another authority that will funnel taxpayer money to businessmen with virtually no taxpayer oversight. Hopefully someone in Lansing is smart enough to kill this thing. I know. Fat chance that. Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:21 a.m.

Thank goodness some sort of coordination might actually occur on improving this ridiculous road that is soon to be in need of repair anyway. It's a surreal drag-strip of dehumanization - unfriendly, unwelcoming, unattractive. Gray and dreary by day. Glaring and gaudy by night. Let's get some landscaping out there. Minimize the time waiting at traffic lights. Make it an enjoyable journey that one looks forward to making instead of getting to Point A from Point B in the absolutely fastest driving time possible (which does not factor in the stoplights). Heck, I'd even get used to a traffic circle or two if it kept cars flowing, especially at rush hour between Stadium and US-23.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 6:10 a.m.

Unfortunately, none of your wishes for changing Washtenaw Avenue is practical. Examine the Washtenaw Corridor Improvement Authority plans and you will discover that an addition traffic light will be placed at Platt and Washtenaw Avenue after building Arbor Hills Crossing. Another traffic light will not improve the flow of traffic. Furthermore, the loss of a traffic lane to create a median strip or a tram track will increase congestion along the route. The increase in tax dollars required by the Corridor Improvement Authority will not improve traffic flow and will only benefit developers, construction companies and architects involved in building the commercial and residential properties which may never be profitable or of any benefit to Ann Arbor.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:14 a.m.

Please, please, please do this in cojunction with MDOT. In addition to the corridor, the interchange at 23 needs to be addressed,as well as the Washtenaw and Carpenter intersection. On and of ramps similar to US 23/M-59 or I 94/M24 would be something worth looking into, even if it means the execise of the State's emeinent domain powers. I would also add a lane between 94 &amp; 23, but that is asking for a lot.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Thanks, as someone who uses US-23 the interchange at Washtenaw regularly for my commute I'd like to see it improved. I also hope they can overcome the congestion between Glencoe Hills and Manchester.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 6:04 a.m.

Read the Washtenaw Corridor Improvement Authority plans and you will be disappointed. If Arbor Hills Crossing is built then another traffic light will be placed at Platt and Washtenaw Avenue, slowing traffic even more. Then again turning one lane into a median strip or a tram track will also increase congestion and impede traffic. But these plans are subterfuge for the real intent of assisting developers to build several commercial buildings and the residential building, Arbor Hills Crossing. All are speculative meaning that no occupants have been identified prior to building. It's a &quot;field of dreams&quot; type of scenario. The score will be developers -1, taxpayers -0.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 1:26 a.m.

More evidence that we are moving towards becoming the &quot;Peoples Republic of Michigan&quot;.

no flamers!

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 1:07 a.m.

This is a great idea and will help overcome the normal and expected difficulties of having 4 governing bodies share responsibility for a zone--if it is everyone's responsibility then it is no one's responsibility. And while I'm normally concerned and opposed to tax increases, this story doesn't say the developmental authority has authority to tax, just that it can use already collected tax revenues from each of the 4 governing bodies.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

The story clearly states the new authority &quot;could levy a special assessment or issue revenue bonds.&quot;, so while technically not a tax increase per say, someone could be paying more in assessment fees and debt repayment (if new revenue does not cover cost of bond interest and principal repayment).


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 12:38 a.m.

I think this a terrific cooperative effort in improving what is a terrible introduction to the great cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. The DDA can turn down the 3 million reimbursement request recently made by a developer and use those tax dollars for police and fire. We have to start allocating our tax dollars in a more responsible and productive manner.

Dog Guy

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 12:32 a.m.

What joy! Another unelected DDA, but with bond issuing and taxing authority! Another layer of government to eat out our substance! Perhaps this CIA will also make special rules for pedestrian crossings.

Linda Peck

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 12:13 a.m.

Is this where our taxes are going to go next? I would very much like to see police on the street beats and fireman washing their fire engines. I think we need to let business sort out their own problems and leave our hard-earned tax money for basic services. I vote.


Tue, May 29, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

I believe the levy of taxes is on the businesses not residents. The business are effectively joining a business development group that will create improvements. The value will also extend to residents of the general area with improved urban planning and renewal, mass transit support, and roadway improvements. A little planning may go a long way.


Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 3:31 a.m.

I vote as well and support this bill.