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Plans for Iron Belle Trail segments in Warren moving forward

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published February 14, 2020

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WARREN — The map for the state’s Iron Belle Trail is closer to completion.

On Feb. 11, the Warren City Council unanimously voted to approve the trail’s master plan and route along several segments through the city spanning Eight Mile and 14 Mile roads.

The Iron Belle Trail has been billed as the “longest designated state trail in the nation,” a 798-mile bicycle trail stretching from Belle Isle to Ironwood at the western edge of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

“This is all about showcasing Michigan’s communities,” Norman Cox, of the Greenway Collaborative Inc., told council members. “It’s going throughout the state, going through 48 counties, 240 townships, 83 towns and villages. This is really a trail of trails. It links many existing trails. It’s all about recreation, transportation and economic opportunities.”

Cox said the trail is more than 70% complete, but that a key gap in Macomb County, including the cities of Warren, Center Line and Sterling Heights, represents some of the most challenging segments because they are in highly developed areas.

“The project scope of this that we’re looking at is Warren, Center Line and Sterling Heights — trying to make sure that the routing through these three communites works together as a whole,” Cox said. “We’ve tried to reach a consensus on the bike route and the improvements, making sure it is feasible, affordable and fundable.

“We wanted to develop a clear implementation strategy, a road map to get this built, who is going to do what and when, and who’s going to pay for what,” Cox said.

He said planners sought input from stakeholders and residents through workshops and online crowdsourcing, and that several routes were evaluated with consideration given to factors including directness of the route, links to community amenities, promotion of economic development, family friendliness, technical and financial feasibility, and funding source guidelines.

As presented and now approved, work will begin in south Warren at Eight Mile Road and Van Dyke Avenue. The trail will move north along Van Dyke to Stephens Road, with various roadway improvements including delineator posts initially (and later curbs) separating bike lanes from traffic, and green paint used to mark “conflict points” for bikes and vehicles.

Continuing north and west, the Iron Belle Trail will then enter Center Line along a route approved by the Center Line City Council in January 2018. The trail will run from Van Dyke west along Stephens to Lawrence Avenue, and then north beyond 10 Mile Road to Bernice Street before turning back east across Van Dyke to Arsenal Street.

The route back through Warren will take further segments of the trail north on Arsenal to Martin Road and then east to Los Olas Drive. It then turns north on Los Olas and goes across 12 Mile Road to Lorraine Boulevard and continues north to Common Road, where it will turn east toward the ITC Corridor. The trail then will continue north along the corridor to the Sterling Heights border at 14 Mile Road.

Cox said various improvements will be required where the trail crosses major roads and “half mile” residential streets. The route will be marked with signage and there will be “shared lane” marking on smaller streets.

Much more information, including detailed maps and project cost projections, can be found online at greeenwaycollab.com/ironbelle.

Cost estimates included in a June 2019 technical memo from Bergmann Associates Architects, Engineers and Planners lists the cost for the Warren and Center Line segments at a combined total of $1,305,843 with marked bike lane buffer zones along the stretch on Van Dyke, and $2,343,018 with bike lanes in that stretch separated by a raised curb.

“We put together a funding strategy looking at dividing the project up not just into different segments, but the type of work,” Cox said. “We looked at the hard costs of building something and the soft costs of engineering, and then we tried to match the existing federal, state, local and private funding sources to that work to make sure this is all very feasible.”

Work along Van Dyke north of Eight Mile could commence in 2021. The off-road trail through the ITC Corridor could commence in 2022.

Warren City Councilman Eddie Kabacinski voted in support of the route but expressed concern about safety and security.

Councilman Jonathan Lafferty said he supported the Macomb Orchard Trail years ago when he served on the Macomb County Board of Commissioners and that he was pleased to support the Iron Belle Trail project.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea and it would be a terrific asset for the future of our city,” Lafferty said.

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