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SEMCOG Approves Freeway Expansion

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Photo Credit: Amy Hubbarth

Photo Credit: Amy Hubbarth

DETROIT (WWJ) – The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments has approved the widening of I-94 and I-75 despite fierce opposition.

Dozens of people pounded the pavement at a rally before a public hearing Thursday afternoon, and even more showed up before SEMCOG to speak against the plan. Arguments focused on the cost of the project — a widening effort many say makes little sense when the state’s roads have not yet been fixed.

Bob Prud’homme chairs Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development. He says we need to focus on fixing the freeways we have instead of expanding them.

“Both the I-75 and I-94 expansion are really not fiscally responsible. SEMCOG’s own documentation indicates that there is not a need for the expansion at this point in time. We’re looking at traffic counts from 25 years ago trying to justify this. We’ve lost a lot of population,” says Prud’homme.

Others, mostly residents of Detroit, argued that their neighborhoods would take a hit.

Alan Languirand is a Woodbridge home owner at the public hearing. He says a number of freeway overpasses will be closed in his neighborhood.

“There’s homes in the demolition path. There’s things like the United Sound System Studios being kind of the birth of Motown and being an iconic symbol in the city being slated for demolition,” says Languirand.

Also torn down for the expansion will be a part of Ellen Thompson Elementary – a prestigious charter school. Beth Joy Swain’s children are students there and she says she doesn’t know if her kids can continue to attend.

“There’s a reason why I picked that school to send them to, I certainly don’t want to send them to a public school around the corner or anything like that,” says Swain.

She adds, “They have a 100-percent graduation rate and I think it was 99-percent of their graduating class last year went on to college. It’s an excellent school.”

However, there were other people just hearing about the expansion that think it might be a good idea.

One resident telling WWJ, “Well when you are traveling during the morning rush hours, you would like more lanes.”

The I-94 project calls for the demolition of homes, bridges and part of a school. An approximately 7-mile stretch of that highway is set to be widened, while an 18-mile stretch of I-75 in Oakland County will also be widened.

Projects are set to begin in 2014.

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