Cyclists and pedestrians will soon have an easier time getting around Detroit.
What was once abandoned railroad track will become 7.5 miles of paved trails for biking and walking. The city used $4.3 million in state grants to purchase 76 acres of land from the Conrail railroad company.
The new trail will help fill the biggest gap in the city’s Inner Circle Greenway, a 26-mile loop of bike lanes and trails encircling the city.
“I think what’s great about it is it brings a trail similar to the Dequindre Cut or Riverwalk out into the neighborhoods, into other areas that haven’t seen this kind of investment,” said Todd Scott, executive director of the Detroit Greenways Coalition, which has worked closely with the city on the project.
The city says the new trail will connect dozens of Detroit neighborhoods to parks and small businesses around the city. The vision for the completed Inner Circle Greenway includes “bike lanes, pedestrian paths, seating, lighting, public safety elements and other amenities,” according to a press release from the city.
“Residents will have a safe and reliable non-motorized path of greenways and bike lanes connecting them to the river front, eastern market, parks across the city and more,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement.
But Scott says the city is thinking about the Inner Circle Greenway as more than just a way to get people from point A to point B. They see it as a way to leverage investments in neighborhoods that haven’t benefited from the boom in downtown and Midtown, as well as connecting people in those neighborhoods to jobs and education.
“It’s become much bigger than just a swath of asphalt through the neighborhoods,” Scott said.
The money to purchase the land from Conrail came from grants from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Transportation. The city has not said yet how it will pay to turn that land into greenspace and add a trail. But Scott says that some will likely come from foundations. Conrail has also volunteered $500,000 to the project.
The sale still has to be approved by Conrail’s board and by Detroit City Council. But the city says, if all goes well, the design phase of the project should start this fall.