All Roads No Transit Makes Detroit a Dull Boy

For one indication why metro Detroit remains one of the largest urban areas in America without modern mass transit and, not coincidentally, an economic basket case at the start of the 21st century, check out the "high profile/high budget" transportation projects Detroit News Commuting Correspondent Tom Greenwood highlights in yesterday's column:

  • A $7.6 million widening of Cass from two to five lanes from the Clinton River Bridge to 19 ½ Mile.

A $6.3 million widening of Romeo Plank to five lanes.

A $2.7 million widening of 23 Mile to five lanes.

A $2.5 million widening of Cass to five lanes from Groesbeck to the Clinton River Bridge.

Not a single project aimed at expanding public transit or other alternatives to the automobile, and this at a time as gas shoots past $3 a gallon and prime time cities like Denver, Toronto, and Portland invest billions in new light rail trains and urban streetcar infrastructure to enhance quality of life, attract knowledge workers, and safeguard the environment.

Ironically, a story on the preceeding page of today's newspaper reveals the state's road budget faces $300 million in spending cuts in 2008.

So, putting the pieces together, Detroit and the State of Michigan is spending tens of millions of dollars to expand a short-sighted transportation strategy that is increasingly unaffordable, out of touch with a strategic development strategy, and ultimately unsustainable.

"We need $320 million more a year," to keep 90 percent of the roads in good condition, state transportation director Kirk Steudle told the Detroit News. "Where that is going to come from, I don't know."

So we'll just keep widening the roads and adding more surfaces to repair.