By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – Mayor Abdullah Hammoud explained key elements of the $24.8 million in federal funding designated to help make Warren Avenue safer during the Jan. 4 mayoral briefing to the City Council.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Safe Streets and Roads for All grant will be used to design and implement traffic safety measures along Warren Avenue to benefit both drivers and pedestrians.
“It took us two rounds to get that money,” Hammoud said. “We were actually unsuccessful in the first round, so we went with a different grant application and were successful in the second.”
The mayor said the $25 million will be matched by Wayne County, with $5 million allocated for resurfacing that was scheduled for the 2025 calendar year.
Hammoud said the city has funds for façade improvement, and the Warren Avenue business corridor is involved, with an architect onboard to help with the façade design along all of Warren Avenue.
“Some of the funds we have allocated will make sure that businesses have the resources they need to get through the construction period, as well as ensuring that we have a unique façade and can begin to get façade grants to these local business owners to help adopt a new façade as we come up with a new streetscape design,” he said.
Hammoud said the expectation is that 2024 will be a planning year and the hope is that in 2025 they will get shovels in the ground with a one-year construction phase. However, the grant does allow five years for project completion.
The mayor said the project calls for the implementation of traffic calming measures to make Warren Avenue a safer street.
“When we submitted the grant, we talked about how dangerous Warren Avenue is today using data that we have, knowing that we had several pedestrian deaths last year along Warren Avenue alone,” he said. “That was part of the grant application.”
He said Nicole Hefty, director of philanthropy and grants, worked across city departments to talk about several ideas.
Hammoud said that while some stretches of Warren Avenue may go down to one traffic lane in each direction, he doesn’t imagine that would occur for a full two-mile stretch.
“You can explore other options, like how you create integrated medians, areas that are brick turning them into rain garden features, how you get it more illuminated, and putting bike and pedestrian pathways in there,” he said. “That allows for all of that and allows you to do the planning as well.”
Hammoud said in 2024 the city will bring together all of the stakeholders to determine what is the best overall plan.
He said areas where there is a lot of semi-truck traffic would not accommodate one traffic lane in each direction.
“This is going to take strategic implementation, so we need a full year just for that to make sure that we get it right,” Hammoud said.
The mayor said there are other ways to calm traffic without going down to one lane in each direction.
Hammoud said the former $1 million archway proposal was dropped when it was determined to be problematic, and the money was shifted to the façade grant fund.
Councilmember Mustapha Hammoud said he likes what Detroit has done with protected bicycle lanes.
Abdullah Hammoud said the bicycle lanes had some good elements in them, and other elements that could be improved upon.
Mustapha Hammoud said bicycling is not as culturally embraced along Warren Avenue as it is in other parts of the city.
“It’s kind of like the right thing to do if we are going to do the connectivity with Detroit vibe,” the council member said. “Realistically, interconnected bike lanes should be in our west downtown, and the east downtown even, in places where you actually do see people on bicycles, but as a design and slowing down traffic perspective it doesn’t make sense.”
Mayor Hammoud said it makes sense to lay down bike lanes along the two-mile stretch of Warren Avenue in Dearborn as the city is going through its master planning process, to establish them along an important east end corridor.
“Then you can come up through another artery like Chase or Schaefer to Michigan Avenue, then all you need is Michigan Avenue east and west, and then you can navigate the whole city in a protected bike lane,” the mayor said.
Mustapha Hammoud suggested that the city work with DTE and other infrastructure stakeholders early on in the project to see what can be done, like burying power lines, or improving water lines, while Warren is torn up.
Mayor Hammoud agreed, adding that the city has a lot of which to be proud.
“Each and every thing that is happening across the city is happening in real time for the whole public’s eyes,” the mayor said. “I think we have a general public that is very in tune and understanding what is happening, and I think it is telling us that we have a general audience and electorate that is very in tune to what’s happening in city government, and I think that’s a kudos to everybody at the table.”
Hammoud said they will try to be as transparent and accountable as possible in the coming year as the city moves forward.
“Hopefully, it will be exciting in the next year,” the mayor said. “There will be a lot of picture-taking moments in ’24!”