A Dearborn Recreation Department meeting held Tuesday night at the focused on the city's plans to apply for a grant that would extend the Rouge River Greenway Trail.
Currently, the trail runs from Hines Drive to the trailhead at the back of Andiamos restaurant, jutting through and the . The extension, if it goes fowrard, would continue the trail behind Andiamos and the , eventually leading to Brady Street at the intersection of Morley Street.
The idea is that it would lead bicyclists and pedestrians onto the sidewalk and bike lane that head into .
The Transportation Enhancement Grant, available through the Michigan Department of Transportation, would be a matching grant–with the city offering to pay 30 percent of the total cost. The Recreation Department estimates that the project will cost around $500,000-600,000, meaning that the city would pay roughly $150,000-180,000.
Recreation Department Director Greg Orner said that his department was pursuing the project mainly out of safety concerns. Currently, pedestrians or bicyclists are forced onto the Michigan Avenue sidewalk at the end of the trail–something Orner said is a disaster waiting to happen.
"We’ve had some near accidents at that location because of heavy traffic," he said. "We believe it will be a much safer access if we can build a trail system that goes behind Andiamos and behind the Historical Museum.”
Deputy Recreation Director Eric Peterson added that it's especially concerning, given a number of events that require people to walk along that area, such as local races and fundraising walks.
"Thousands of our students and residents participate in events and it’s dangerous going along that sidewalk on Michigan Avenue," he said.
The project proposal includes a raised boardwalk-like area that would take bicyclists and pedestrians through the woods, turning into a paved walkway as it neared Brady. It would be approximately a quarter-mile long.
Resident concerns raised at the meeting ranged from environmental issues to costs to a belief of residents in the West Lane neighborhood just off of Brady that the trail is bringing unwanted visitors into their backyards.
Peterson said that the department would “most likely have to send in our plans to be looked at” in terms of the environmental impact the trail would make to indigenous plants and animals in the wooded area near the Rouge, but that the city avoided waterway issues by creating a pathway plan that does not cross the river.
Livonia resident Bill Craig, who said he does volunteer work with , cautioned the city that there may be unforeseen costs, such as flood plain permits and upkeep of the bridge–especially if it is damaged by frequent Rouge flooding.
“The devil’s in the details, and a $600,000 project is going to cost you more than that,” Craig said, adding that long-term maintenance “is going to be a concern for this city.”
The department admitted in documents handed out to attendees of the hearing that the project is rather expensive, but that "it is the most cost effective and environmentally sensitive way to connect the existing trail to Ford Field Park."
Though the grant has not yet been submitted, Orner said talks with MDOT representative Vince Ranger have led him to believe it has a good chance of being approved. A similar grant request made in 2008 to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund was denied.
"(Ranger) believes this project is worthy of funding because of the unique location plus other projects that will happen in this area," Orner said, referring to and projects under way nearby.
If approved, Peterson said that the absolutely earliest the project would be completed is the spring of 2013.