DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A $21 million project linking 20 miles of walking, running and biking paths in Detroit has wrapped up as part of an effort to boost recreation activities, better connect redeveloping neighborhoods and spur growth.

A ribbon-cutting takes place Friday to celebrate completion of the Link Detroit project at the new Wilkins Street Plaza, located along a half-mile extension of the Dequindre Cut Greenway in Eastern Market. A community celebration is Saturday.

In 2012, the effort secured $10 million in federal transportation funding. Additional money came from the city, state and donations from organizations including the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the McGregor Fund and the Kresge Foundation.

“These kinds of investments are transformative,” Tom Woiwode, director of the GreenWays Initiative for the Community Foundation, said in an interview this week. “Detroit has the opportunity to be a leader in both the development of these projects and in creating the conversation about these kinds of projects.”

The city of Detroit took the lead on Link Detroit, which was key in connecting greenways extending from the Detroit Riverfront to cultural institutions in Midtown and Wayne State University. The pathways and bike lanes also improve access to Eastern Market and the Detroit enclave of Hamtramck.

“This is another step in making Detroit a place where more families want to live,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement.

The Link Detroit project included the North Extension of the Dequindre Cut Greenway, which is built on the route of a former rail line; bike lanes in Eastern Market; a key portion of the 3.5-mile Midtown Loop greenway; and 2 miles of on- and off-street bike lanes between Eastern Market and Hamtramck.

The completion comes as a partnership between the U.S. and Canada is encouraging people to use bikes to explore both sides of the Detroit River.

The Detroit Greenways Coalition hopes that routes in southwestern Ontario and southeastern Michigan will be linked across the Detroit River by a bike lane on the Gordie Howe International Bridge, which is scheduled to open in 2020.

The five projects that make up the completed Link Detroit project include:

Dequindre Cut Greenway – North Extension
Completion of the Dequindre Cut Greenway North Extension now brings the below grade bicycle and pedestrian pathway from Gratiot Avenue north to Mack Avenue for a total of nearly two miles. The Greening of Detroit donated land from their Detroit Market Garden to allow for the creation of an access ramp and plaza that lead down from Wilkins St. to connect to the pathway. The DRFC, which operates the RiverWalk and current Dequindre Cut Greenway, will also manage and maintain the new extension.

Eastern Market Streetscape Enhancement
The Link Detroit project also included significant streetscape upgrades in the Eastern Market district. The street curbs on Russell Street were improved, along with the addition of bicycle lanes, LED streetlights, and new trees and greenery. In addition, a new bicycle parking structure was installed at the district’s main parking lot at the corner of Russell and Wilkins. The market also features easy access to the Dequindre Cut Greenway.

Midtown Loop – Phase IV
A vital connector between the Midtown Loop and Eastern Market was also completed as part of the Link Detroit project. The new greenway now connects the Midtown neighborhood and its cultural attractions directly to Eastern Market and the new Dequindre Cut extension via Wilkins Street. The Midtown Loop is a 3.5-mile greenway that began construction in 2010. Phases I, II and IV are complete, with the final phase, which will run from Midtown to Downtown, wrapping construction by this fall.

Hamtramck Connector
With the new Dequindre Cut Greenway extension ending now at ground level at Mack Avenue, another two miles of on- and off-street bike lanes were completed in the Link Detroit project to connect Eastern Market and the riverfront to the city of Hamtramck and its planned greenway system.

Bridge Reconstruction
The Link Detroit project also allowed for the reconstruction of three bridges that run over the Dequindre Cut Greenway at Adelaide, Division and Wilkins Streets, and removed the Alfred Street bridge. This reconstruction helps to maintain and enhance critical road linkages allowing adjacent neighborhoods better access to Eastern Market and also helps facilitate more efficient truck traffic to vendors and local businesses.

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