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Belle Isle Park Multimodal Mobility Study

bridge over river

Belle Isle Park Multimodal Mobility Study

To help ease traffic congestion and increase public safety at Belle Isle Park, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Belle Isle Conservancy, has launched a comprehensive multimodal transportation and traffic study, expected to be completed by the end of 2023. Wade Trim, a metro Detroit-based engineering consultant firm, will complete the study.

The purpose of the study is to increase safety and enjoyment, improve wayfinding and ease travel for all users and modes. The goal is to develop a phased strategy for implementing sustainable improvements to better manage all modes of travel, circulation and parking on the island.

Belle Isle Multimodal Mobility Study logo with colorful lines

Proposed recommendations

As part of the study, a team of engineers, planners and landscape architects looked at both short- and long-term sustainable options to improve the park’s circulation, wayfinding and parking. At a July 8 public open house,100-plus people came together to review the options and provide feedback. Following the open house, there were additional opportunities to learn about those recommendations via a recorded presentation and provide feedback.

 Proposed recommendations included:

  • Converting the main road around the island to two-way and adding traffic circles for easier and safer access
  • Creating a welcoming bridge and entry experience, including installing protected bike lanes on the MacArthur Bridge and improving access at the toll booths.
  • Creating a promenade down the center of Central Avenue for all pedestrians, including walkers and bikers.
  • Adding parking where it’s needed.
  • Improving signage around the island to help visitors know where to go and how to get there.
  • Offering alternative mobility options, such as a ferry or improved public transportation, to and from the park.

Watch proposed recommendations presentation »

Questions? Contact or by phone at 313-261-5059.

Belle Isle Park, a 985-acre island park located in the Detroit River near downtown Detroit, provides spectacular views of Detroit to the north and Canada to the south. It's home to the James Scott Memorial Fountain, the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory, the Belle Isle Aquarium, the Ralph Wilson Gateway (which serves as the official southern trailhead for Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail), trails, a designated swim beach, picnic shelters, play equipment, a golf course and many more cultural and natural attractions.

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Data collection

Comprehensive data collection is key to understanding current mobility conditions and vetting possible improvement strategies. The following was collected by the project team:

  • A survey designed to determine how visitors move onto and around the island, including an opportunity to recommend possible solutions, was taken by more than 3,0000  respondents. The survey could be completed online, in print or by phone, and was available in English, Arabic and Spanish. Find a summary of the key results.
  • Counts, including turning movements of vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle transportation modes at 60 intersections/driveways on the island.
  • An aerial traffic inventory study that included 38 flights over the island. Images were taken every 2 seconds and stitched together to create "hourly" aerial images of the island to help illustrate congestion points and popular areas.
  • In-person observations of how people use and move around the island.
  • Extensive discussions with staff, Belle Isle Conservancy and key stakeholders, such as the City of Detroit, island vendors and tenants, community organizations and others with specific interests in the island.
  • Early intercept survey of almost 400 people using the island (fall 2022).
  • Inventory of regulatory and wayfinding signs.
  • Visitor-use counts via video recording for key areas including the beach, fountain, shelters, Paddock parking area and toll booths.
  • Crash analysis and conflict study to address and evaluate safety improvements.

Next steps in the study

  • The project team will incorporate stakeholder and public feedback into a set of final recommendations for improving park safety and access. Public feedback was attained during Round 1 (September 2022 and February 2023) via an intercept survey of park visitors and online public survey (3,000-plus responses). In addition, stakeholder feedback was gathered at 17 stakeholder meetings that included park tenants, vendors, staff and others. During Round 2 (June and July 2023), there were opportunities to comment on draft recommendations at three stakeholder meetings and the July 8 public open house. An opportunity to watch a video and provide feedback via email or phone was also provided.
  • The DNR, the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Belle Isle Conservancy will publish and share the final recommendations for implementation with stakeholders and the public. 


Amanda Treadwell, Department of Natural Resources,

Lori Pawlik, Wade Trim,

Study schedule

July - November 2023

  • Finalize strategies and prepare for implementation.
  • Round 3 outreach. Publish and share the final recommendations.

April - July 2023

  • Refine strategies.
  • Round 2 outreach and engagement.
  • Share ideas and gather feedback.

December 2022 - March 2023

  • Regional public input survey (Jan/Feb).
  • Develop strategies.
  • Round 1 outreach and engagement.

September - November 2022

  • Data processing and analysis.

July - August 2022

  • Research and data collection.