One of Metro Detroit’s most chronic traffic headaches is about to get some relief.
Local, state and federal officials have announced plans for a new railroad bridge over Allen Road in Woodhaven. Right now, the tracks run across Allen just north of Van Horn Rd. Whenever a train crosses Allen, it snarls traffic. The average delay is 10 minutes, but they can last much longer, especially when a train stops.
It’s a problem that has frustrated drivers downriver for decades, especially shoppers trying to reach the many stores on Allen Rd. Train delays also pose a serious threat to public safety.
“When the trains hold you up, it can literally be a life or death situation.” — Wayne Co. Executive Warren Evans
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans spent much of his life in law enforcement. As a deputy sheriff in the 1970s and ‘80s, he recalls getting stuck at the Allen Rd. crossing while driving a scout car.
“There’s no worse feeling than getting stuck by a train when you know there’s someone who drastically needs your help on the other side,” Evans says.
A stopped or slow-moving train can also prevent ambulances from reaching Beaumont Hospital in Trenton via Allen Rd. The medical center is on Fort Street, south of Van Horn. It’s the only Level 2 trauma center downriver.
The same set of tracks crosses Fort St., causing similar problems for commuters and emergency vehicles. Because Fort St. is a state highway (M-85), Evans says it would take an influx of federal and state dollars to address the train delays there.
The Allen Rd. project is expected to take about three years and cost up to $39 million dollars. It has to be approved by the Wayne County Commission and the Woodhaven City Council.
Click on the player to hear Pat Batcheller’s conversation with Wayne Co. Executive Warren Evans, and read a transcript, edited for clarity, below.
Pat Batcheller, 101.9 FM, WDET: What’s the plan for the Allen Rd. rail crossing?
Wayne Co. Executive Warren Evans: We’ve finally gotten the state, federal and county dollars to create both a bridge over Allen and a lowering of the road.
I’m one of those people that have been bugged by that for 30 or 40 years, since I was driving a scout car going to emergencies. There’s no worse feeling than getting stuck by a train when you know there’s a victim or someone who drastically needs your help on the other side, and the train takes 10, 15, 20 or 45 minutes to pass.
People downriver have been living with that forever. It’s still going to take approval of the county commission, but things things are finally moving in a direction that makes sense.
How long is the project going to take into how much will it cost?
That’s going to cost about $35 million. About $12 million is state money. $6 million is county money, and $9 million is Woodhaven’s money. What’s good about this is folks have come together, finally, to muster enough money to take care of this.
Part of the project involves lowering Allen Rd. by about 20 feet under the new railroad bridge. What happens when it rains? What’s being done to prevent flooding?
There will be pumping stations and an engineering plan created to deal with that.
Beaumont Hospital in Trenton is located on the other side of the tracks. It’s on Fort Street, but emergency responders often use Allen Rd. to get there. Train delays have been a problem for them.
Huge, huge impact. That’s the Trauma 2 center for downriver. That is the place that you need to get to in emergencies.
When the trains hold you up, it can literally be a life or death situation. The real real issue here is the public safety issue for police fire and others who need to be able to get to the other side.
The same set of tracks cross Fort Street in Trenton, and pose many of the same kind of problems. But it’s a state highway, not a county road. What can your team do, if anything, to address that situation?
We need an influx of federal dollars. Congresswomen Debbie Dingell and Rashida Tlaib have both been very, very active in terms of trying to help seek those dollars.
I’m working as closely as I can with the governor to try to come up with a legitimate road funding plan so that we can find the pots of money necessary to solve some of these very basic problems.
The saddest part is I don’t think the public really fully understands just how much money this whole thing takes. Not just Fort St., but the whole infrastructure issues. We did a 10-year study in Wayne County to get an idea of what we need to stop the decline of the roads.
With the money we’re spending now on a regular basis, we’re still seeing an overall decline in Wayne County roads and infrastructure and that can’t go on for long before you have disastrous results.
Every year the cost is going higher, so you’re not saving money by procrastinating.
It takes cooperation among a lot of public officials, which sounds like it’s easier said than done, considering how long it’s taken to address Allen Rd.
One thing about politics is people change in elective office, and I think the stars are lining up better now in terms of the overall cooperation of the leaders at each level.
I think the big issue now is the fundamental policy issue about where do we find the money and how do we fund it? You know, that’s obviously a big issue, but we’re trying to address it.