City plans to roll out nonmotorized plan

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 1, 2019


People who want to paddle, pedal or pace through Sterling Heights will have more options, according to city officials.

During a special Jan. 29 City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Vanderpool said city officials have designed the city’s first-ever nonmotorized transportation plan to accommodate bicyclists, walkers and canoers, and improve their quality of life. He said studies have shown that such options boost home values and cut crime.

“While the title of ‘nonmotorized plan’ may not sound very exciting, the actual output is super exciting,” Vanderpool said.

City Development Director Jason Castor said the city’s 2030 visioning plan contains a guiding principle that calls for abundant pathways for cycling and walking. He added that more paths translate to better resident mobility, safety, transportation choices, recreation, placemaking, economic development and health.

Castor said Sterling Heights is in a unique position due to having the Clinton River run through it, and the city was able in recent years to help open a 9-mile stretch of the river with financial aid from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The removal of logjams and improved wildlife habitats means that the river now works better for fishers and paddlers, he explained. 

“Having the Clinton River navigable, unobstructed for the first time since the ‘70s, is a direct result of the 100 percent EPA-funded $4.5 million grant, ” he said.

Castor also described existing cycling opportunities, noting that the city has more than 17 miles of shared-use trails for bicyclists and hikers. He brought up the new Dodge Park pedestrian bridge and floral mural art as new attractions along the trails. 

Among the new trails planned in 2019 is a connection from Van Dyke Road to the trail system along the Clinton River, Castor said. He also said the city plans to be part of the Iron Belle Trail network, which will eventually create one giant, 774-mile biking trail in Michigan. He said the trail will enter the city at 14 Mile and Schoenherr roads. 

“The total Iron Belle path through Sterling Heights will be around 8 miles,” he said.

Castor pointed out that in 2019, the city will work on a 1.7-mile nature trail connecting Beaumont Hospital, Troy, and Delia Park through the Recreating Recreation program.

In terms of pedestrian travel, Castor said the city closed around 4.75 miles’ worth of gaps in the sidewalk system between 2012 and 2015. The city fixed another 4 miles or so of gaps between 2016 and 2018, he said. 

Next will come 1.5 miles of sidewalk that will be sprinkled throughout the city in 2019 and 2020, he said. 

“Two notable locations for upcoming sidewalk gap projects are Clinton River Road and Saal Road, and 19 Mile and Schoenherr Road,” he said.

Although it won’t happen this year, city officials are still awaiting construction for the Innovate Mound project. That project involves the eventual reconstruction of Mound Road between Interstate 696 and M-59, along with related, state-of-the-art infrastructure. That project, when fully complete, should fill in an additional 6 miles of sidewalk gaps, Castor said.

Neither Castor nor Vanderpool provided any cost estimates for the plans at the meeting. But Vanderpool said they will have more details about trails and paths soon. 

“We’ll be hearing much more about closing many of the sidewalk gaps in the forthcoming budget,” he said.

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