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Cities seeking grant for intercommunity bike trail

By: Brendan Losinski, Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published June 4, 2019

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EASTPOINTE/ST. CLAIR SHORES/WARREN — The cities of Eastpointe, St. Clair Shores and Warren are considering plans for a new bike path that would span the three communities and connect to the region’s larger bike path network.

The Eastpointe City Council at its May 21 meeting approved an application for a Southeast Michigan Council of Governments grant that would allow planning for the bike trail to begin. The Warren City Council similarly approved the application at its regular meeting May 28, and the St. Clair Shores City Council voted to support the measure June 3.

“(The trail) is a long way from being implemented,” said Jose Abraham, Eastpointe’s Department of Public Works and Services director. “We are sending our application to SEMCOG to receive funds for a Planning Assistance Program Multi-Community Planning grant. This means two or more communities have to join in on a project for those communities to benefit. The grant is just for planning, not building or implementation. This includes projects such as road or corridor enhancements, green infrastructure, joined public services and other things like this bike trail.”

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said he is excited to see plans for the proposed trail moving forward and thinks it will be a significant improvement for all three cities.

“It’s a great collaboration project between Eastpointe and Warren to begin with,” Fouts said. “I think we need more collaborative projects between cities; it’s a nice way to reduce costs for individual communities. We also currently have a bike project going north into Sterling Heights, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a project that goes east to west. I think we need more bike use, which encourages healthy living and reduces traffic and helps the environment. I think it’s a great benefit for putting in a relatively small amount of money.”

The St. Clair Shores City Council voted unanimously to participate  in the SEMCOG Planning Assistance Program grant with Warren and Eastpointe at its June 3 meeting. St. Clair Shores Assistant City Manager Bill Gambill said that the grant has a maximum project cost of $50,000 and will cover 81.85% of the cost of the project, with a required match of 18.15%, or $9,075, so each of the three communities will have to cover approximately $3,000 of the cost of the match.

The purpose of the grant, he said, would be to explore how the bike path would connect each community. The grant and the feasibility study is a “first step, to see if it could be done,” Gambill said.

“The planning grant would determine the best route and how far it would go into the community,” Gambill said.

The proposed paths would extend the Conner Creek Greenway spoke of the Iron Belle Trail from Warren and Center Line, through Eastpointe, into St. Clair Shores. Gambill said that Spindler Park in Eastpointe, 19400 Stephens Road, would be the likely connecting point to St. Clair Shores. The trail could connect from the park to St. Clair Shores Civic Arena, 20000 Stephens Road, and from there potentially go to the Nine-Mack corridor and possibly down to the Nine Mile fishing pier.

The study would “look at paths that would be feasible, not cost prohibitive,” Gambill told the St. Clair Shores City Council.

Abraham added that several different ideas for the path of such a bike trail would be considered in the planning process before any implementation of the bike trail would begin.

“My initial thought is to go west from John F. Kennedy Park toward Stephens and then take that toward Groesbeck,” Abraham said. “We would connect it to other bike lanes as it moves west and then connect these paths to the bike paths leading toward Belle Isle or the Dequindre Cut. There are plenty of possibilities of ways we could develop such a project. We might also consider going down Nine Mile Road instead. It also could go all the way east to the lakefront in St. Clair Shores. It depends on what would be most feasible.”

Should the planning grant be approved, the planning process will take several months. Abraham said the cities are optimistic that grants can be secured to help fund the project; however, the exact amount they would be able to secure can only be determined after the planning process is complete.

“If we successfully get this grant, we will hire a consultant, and then they will come up with ideal routes for the bike traffic,” he explained. “We will try to seek grants such as a Transportation Alternatives Program grant after that point to put it into action. … There are foundations that can also help us cover the remaining costs of a community improvement project like this. So we are just at the beginning of this whole process.”

Gambill said that if the communities receive the grant, Eastpointe would go through the process to procure an engineering firm in the hopes that the study could be completed by the spring of 2020.

All three communities agree that such a project would be a benefit to their municipalities and improve transportation and recreation options for residents in the area.

“We want to provide the best facilities possible to the citizens and the residents of our neighboring cities,” Abraham said. “This will benefit the region as a whole.”