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As bridge project moves forward, its future neighbors seek assurances

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Residents of one Detroit neighborhood hope a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor will provide tangible benefits for them.

Southwest Detroit’s Delray area will host the American side of the new bridge. The span received a Presidential permit last week.

Some residents there are pushing for a legally-binding community benefits agreement.

The New International Trade Crossing’s future neighbors want some guarantees that the project won’t harm the community, says Simone Sagovac, of the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition.

They also want some “improvements in the community itself, which has been devastated over so many years of waiting for the bridge project,” Sagovac says. “There’s been so much decline, and there could be neighborhood improvements to make it livable.”

Sagovac says the group’s number one concern is air quality. Delray already deals with a heavy pollution burden from nearby industry, and suffers from higher-than-normal rates of childhood asthma and adult hospitalizations.

The benefits coalition wants specific measures taken to deal with diesel emissions, which will be significant from heavy truck traffic on the bridge. Sagovac says the group also wants guarantees that neighborhood residents will be given access to bridge-related job training and opportunities.

The benefits coalition has had years of dialogue with state and Canadian officials about the project. Segovac says they’ve heard a lot of nice things during that time—but they want an agreement on paper.

The interlocal agreement that’s the legal basis for the bridge project contains a provision about community benefits.

But, “Our concern is that the specifics aren’t there,” Sagovac says. “And we want to be sure they are legally binding.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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