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Key environmental terms
An alternative is a design solution for the project. An alternatives analysis is conducted for the project that is compliant with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The alternatives analysis includes a systematic and open process of developing alternatives, technical evaluation, public input, and screening alternatives that must provide justification for why alternatives are eliminated or carried forward. As part of this process, there are various milestones that represent different types of alternatives that are described below.
- “No-Build” Alternative: This alternative includes only the current transportation system with no improvements other than routine maintenance. It must always be included in the analysis to serve as a baseline against which the other alternatives can be compared.
- Illustrative Alternatives: This includes the initial range of reasonable conceptual alternatives that were developed based on the purpose and need of the project and stakeholder input. The level of detail of alternatives are low but consistent between each alternative.
- Practical Alternatives: This includes the set of alternatives that were carried forward after the initial screening of the Illustrative Alternatives. At this stage of the process, Practical Alternatives have more detail design completed to better assess technical performance as well as impacts and benefits. Public input is also obtained at this stage and considered part of a more detailed screening process.
- Preferred Alternative: After screening the Practical Alternatives, one alternative is carried forward as the Preferred Alternative. This alternative is the one that best addresses the purpose and need of the project and considers factors from the technical evaluation, and a detailed environmental evaluation, including impacts and benefits to the human and natural environment. A public hearing is conducted at this stage to obtain public input on the Preferred Alternative.
- Selected Alternative: The Preferred Alternative becomes the Selected Alternative when the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approves the project. For the I-375 project, FHWA approval is obtained when they issue the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).
Environmental Assessment (EA)
An overview of an agency’s responsibilities when the significance of a federal-aid project’s environmental impacts is uncertain. The EA analyzes potential impacts and suggested measures for minimizing harm to the project area.
Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)
A FONSI is issued when environmental analysis and interagency review during the EA process find a project to have no significant impacts on the quality of the environment. The FONSI document is the EA modified to reflect all applicable comments and responses.
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA)
NEPA requires federal agencies to evaluate the potential social, economic, cultural, and natural environmental impacts of a proposed action before making a decision. Agencies must provide opportunities for public review and comment as part of the evaluation of potential impacts.
Planning and Environmental Linkages Study (PEL)
A collaborative and integrated approach to transportation decision-making considers environmental, community, and economic goals early in the planning process. A PEL uses the information, analysis, and products developed during planning to inform the environmental review process.
What is the I-375 Project?
Located in the city of Detroit, I-375 is a 1-mile-long freeway that connects the I-75 freeway directly to Jefferson Avenue. Through the I-375 project, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) plans to transform the I-375 freeway south of I-75 into a grade-level boulevard with signalized intersections. There will also be a new interchange design at I-75 for access to the new boulevard, and a short segment of I-75 freeway will be realigned.
The project will address the outdated interchange design and deteriorated bridges and roadways to meet existing and future transportation needs, improve connectivity and access for all users and align with local future development and placemaking opportunities.
How does the project benefit the community?
The project benefits created for the community include the following:
- Strengthen existing and future transportation, multimodal personal mobility choices, and roadway safety conditions for all users.
- Improving connectivity to surrounding areas for both vehicular and nonmotorized users.
- Enhancing access enables future development and other placemaking opportunities with official land use and long-term economic development plans.
- Enhancing connections to existing and planned transit services and improving community health, equity, and safety.
Additional benefits from the project will be outlined in the Community Enhancements Plan, Land Use Framework Plan, and Aesthetic Guide once they are complete.
How do I get involved in the project?
There are many ways to participate. The most effective is in-person participation and/or online public meetings and comment periods. Opportunities to engage will be listed online at www.Michigan.gov/I375 in early 2023. Postcards to residents and businesses 1-mile out from I-375, news releases, social media, and other notifications will be used to inform the public about meetings.
What is the current project status?
The project has completed the environmental review and is entering early design.
Items already studied and completed include:
- Defining the purpose and need of the project.
- Evaluating and choosing an alternative in the Environmental Assessment.
- Selecting the preferred alternative in the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).
- Updates to the preferred alternative to become the design alternative post-FONSI.
Items to be studied and completed before construction:
- Creating policies and procedures based on the Community Enhancements Plan, Land Use Framework Plan, and a visual characteristics Aesthetic Design Guide.
- Completing the early and final design of the corridor based on the design alternative selected through the environmental phase.
- Developing maintenance of traffic scenarios that will be implemented during construction to minimize impacts on local businesses. A traffic management plan will also be created for special events in the theater and stadium district.
How is the project being funded?
The full construction cost is $300 million. In September 2022, the USDOT awarded MDOT an Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant of $104.6 million to fund the project's construction. The additional cost will be covered by federal and state funding streams. MDOT plans to continue to work with the Legislature and local partners on additional funding opportunities to alleviate the cost burden on the state.
How can I participate in the design process?
Early design for the project is starting now and will include public meetings scheduled throughout 2023 for the public to participate in. MDOT will seek public input through early and final design on enhancements and refinements to the Selected Alternative identified in the environmental phase.
The Selected Alternative is a conceptual design based on the capacity of the new boulevard's location to handle current and future traffic. It is the responsibility of MDOT and FHWA to assure that the mitigation and enhancement measures committed in the FONSI are carried out.
What is the project timeline?
MDOT started the early design of the Selected Alternative in September 2022. The design work will continue over the next couple of years, with many opportunities for public engagement before the project goes into construction. Construction is expected to start as early as 2025. The process and feedback will dictate the timeline of the overall project schedule and readiness for construction.
What was the environmental process?
MDOT followed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, which requires that the social, economic, cultural, and natural environmental impacts of any proposed action by the federal government be analyzed for decision-making and public information purposes.
A Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study was completed in 2016, which represents a collaborative and integrated approach to transportation decision-making that considers environmental, community, and economic goals early in the planning process. This also uses the information, analysis, and products developed during planning to inform the environmental review process.
The Environmental Assessment (EA) was completed in early 2021 and analyzed potential impacts and suggested measures for minimizing harm to the project area. In early 2021, MDOT opened a 45-day public comment period and hosted a public hearing and virtual meeting following the EA release.
In March 2022, MDOT and the FHWA published the FONSI, which documented and thoroughly reviewed the public comments submitted during the 45-day EA comment period. The FONSI completed the environmental process.
How many alternatives were considered?
The following graphic displays the process of getting to the Selected Alternative, which included community input throughout the process.
- Six Illustrative Alternatives and two Illustrative Interchange Alternatives were studied further. A screening process was completed to narrow it down to two Practical Alternatives.
- Two Practical Alternatives were identified through the Illustrative Alternative screening and combined with one Interchange Alternative. One Practical Alternative was selected to be further refined.
-Four refined Practical Alternatives were developed based on a need to further analyze the boulevard and introduce a new interchange alternative resulting from stakeholder feedback.
A Preferred Alternative was selected and is analyzed in the EA. It became the Selected AlternativeFONSI, completing the NEPA process.
What is the finding of no significant impact (FONSI)?
A FONSI is the final NEPA decision document required to move forward with the design for the I-375 project. The document describes why there are no expected significant environmental impacts during and after the construction of the Selected Alternative.
When the FONSI was signed, the Preferred Alternative identified in the EA became the Selected Alternative that moved forward into design. Project comments, with responses, can be reviewed in the FONSI.
Who was involved in the environmental process?
MDOT and FHWA have had a robust stakeholder engagement process to reach the Selected Alternative. The process included four public meetings, seven Local Advisory Committee and Government Advisory Committee meetings, 12 workshops with the City of Detroit, and more than 70 meetings with various stakeholders along the corridor, including local businesses, churches, associations, and block clubs. The public meetings and the public hearing were advertised for open participation. When the public hearing was held, a project newspaper was sent out to everyone 1.5 miles out from the corridor.
The project is moving forward into the design phase and new opportunities for engagement with the public will be offered throughout 2023. For more information, visit the project website or contact MDOT at MDOT-I-375Corridor@Michigan.gov.
How is the history of Black Bottom and Paradise Valley being acknowledged?
FHWA and MDOT fully acknowledge the role previous governmental policies had in the destruction of Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods. The FONSI has a mitigation effort that will create a Community Enhancements Plan. This plan will provide specific mitigation measures that acknowledge the historic social and environmental effects of the original construction of I-375.
MDOT intends for the enhancements to be community-based and developed through a process that will actively engage the community. This acknowledgment may take many forms but its content and delivery must be determined by the community.
Such acknowledgments and commemorations could include but are not limited to items like a historic monument or plaque/marker, interpretive signs at significant locations, a documentary production or publication, a lecture series, a museum installation, or other similar ways to acknowledge the former neighborhoods. These acknowledgments will be determined through a community-based process.
What is the project green sheet and how does it address social and environmental effects of the original construction?
The Green Sheet (page 32 of the FONSI) contains the project-specific mitigation measures that address project impacts as well as community enhancements to acknowledge the historic social and environmental effects of the original construction of I-375. The project mitigation and additional community enhancements will be tracked and sign-off on the mitigation and community enhancements will occur as the project progresses through the various phases: design, right-of-way (ROW) acquisition, construction, and maintenance.
What is the Community Enhancements Plan?
The Community Enhancements Plan was created as part of the FONSI and establishes a series of strategies designed to address the originally constructed freeway's Historical Environmental Justice (HEJ) impacts. The plan will be developed by the Local Advisory Committee and recommended to the I-375 Board in the early design phase of the project. Creation of the plan will include opportunities for the public to participate in public meetings in 2023.
The plan may include enhancements such as historic markers or memorials, affordable housing, incubating and encouraging minority-owned businesses, or other actions relevant to addressing HEJ impacts. The plan will identify potential project partners with the expertise and ability to implement and administer enhancements in the community enhancements plan and include a proposed implementation schedule.
MDOT will track project mitigation measures and community enhancements as the project progresses through the various phases: design, ROW acquisition, construction, and maintenance. MDOT intends for the enhancements to be community-based and developed through a process that will actively engage the community. This acknowledgment may take many forms but its content and delivery must be determined by the community.
How will the community enhancements plan be funded?
MDOT will fund the Community Enhancements Plan from the sale of the excess property the project creates. Additional funding opportunities such as grants will be explored as the Community Enhancements Plan is created by the Local Advisory Committee with public input.
Direct compensatory benefits (i.e., reparations) cannot be provided through the Community Enhancements Plan due to federal and state law restrictions. Since the property was purchased by the State of Michigan with federal funding, the property sale is subject to following federal rules and regulations.
What is the Land-Use Framework Plan?
The Land Use Framework Plan will be a document comprising of zoning recommendations for the potential excess real property that come from the project narrowing the footprint of the roadway and bringing it to grade level. Recommendations exploring different land use configurations for excess real property resulting from the project will be sought from a Local Advisory Committee with public input from public meetings.
The Framework Plan will be developed in close coordination with the City of Detroit with input from the Local Advisory Committee. It will document community aspirations about:
- Future land use
- Stormwater management
- Roadway connections
- Neighborhood connections
- Pedestrian and bicycle mobility
- Transit options
- Urban design features to encourage safe, multimodal connections on complete streets in the immediate environs of the I-375 corridor
The Land Use planning process will begin in early 2023. Opportunities to engage will be listed on the project website at Michigan.gov/I375.
What will happen to the excess property?
The project will result in the creation of excess real property. In accordance with MDOT’s Real Estate Procedure Manual, FHWA approval will be required for any potential release of limited access right of way (ROW) that was secured using federal funds for transportation purposes during the original freeway construction.
Due to the change in highway orientation and operation proposed by this project, an engineering and operations review will be performed to determine the necessary ROW requirements for the continued safety, operation, and maintenance of the new facility.
Some of the LAROW will be relinquished to the City of Detroit for city street connections. MDOT plans to commit the value of the remaining excess real property to address HEJ impacts and social equity (SE) concerns.
Typically, excess ROW is reviewed for disposal after construction of the Selected Alternative. For the unique circumstances of I-375, the following two-phased approach to excess real property disposal will be employed:
- During the development of the community enhancements plan, MDOT will conduct an Engineering Review as set forth in Section 7.3 of MDOT’s Real Estate Procedure Manual to deem if certain real property located within the existing ROW is no longer necessary for the continued operation, maintenance, and safety of the reconstructed facility and that such disposal would not impair the highway or interfere with the free and safe flow of traffic, in compliance with 23 CFR 710.403 and 710.409 and as set forth in Chapter 7 of MDOT’s Real Estate Procedure Manual. Disposal of excess real property may take place following the development of the Community Enhancements Plan and before the completion of construction, which would free up real property or proceeds from the sale of said property and can be used to implement community enhancements related to HEJ impacts during design or construction.
- Other potential excess ROW will need to be retained to assure safe and effective operations of the new boulevard configuration for an evaluation period agreed upon by FHWA and following construction before it could be processed for disposal. In the interim, MDOT will plant grass seed on potential excess real property and coordinate maintenance, such as mowing, to maintain the green space while the land is being held.
What is the Aesthetic Design Guide?
The Aesthetic Design Guide is a document that will outline the unified visual characteristics and branding of the new boulevard and interchange. Four public meetings will be held with the city of Detroit and other local stakeholders to discuss the overall aesthetics of the project and confirm that there is consistency between various design elements, including bridge structures, gateway treatments, signing, fencing, retaining walls, lighting, landscaping, and nonmotorized facilities.
The four meetings will also discuss other placemaking and historical elements and the branding of the boulevard. Once a set of design elements have been developed, these will be presented to the public. A series of design concept elements will be presented and the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback to help determine the preferred elements within the corridor. The Aesthetic Design Guidelines will summarize the results, which can then be incorporated into later design documents.
What is the maintenance of traffic plan?
The maintenance of traffic is a set of initial ideas for how to manage traffic during construction. MDOT will seek public input on the maintenance of traffic solutions through public and stakeholder meetings in 2023. These meetings may also include the results from the traffic management plan for when special events occur within the theater and stadium district.
How will MDOT be inclusive of small and local businesses?
MDOT is working on a Small Business Enterprise and Workforce Development Framework Plan that will include opportunities for local workers and businesses through pre-, during, and post-construction activities. More information will be shared on this process, including how to get involved and events to attend in 2023.
Who is on the Local Advisory Committee?
There is a resident and stakeholder Local Advisory Committee for the I-375 project tasked with providing meaningful input and ideas on final design elements as well as ways to repurpose or leverage excess real property. Ideas proposed by the Local Advisory Committee should be implementable in that they are legal, feasible, and reasonable.
Stakeholder participants include local groups and the community, such as neighborhood organizations, business organizations, clergy, local businesses historical societies, historians, governmental agencies, representatives of the surviving and contemporary jazz community, musical foundations, media sources, climate justice organizations, and racial justice organizations.
Resident participants include people who live in proximity to the corridor.
MDOT works closely with the City of Detroit and local stakeholders to identify the right individuals and/or organizations to represent on the Local Advisory Committee. Recommendations the Local Advisory Committee make will be brought to the public for input.
What does the I-375 Board do?
An executive board consisting of local and state agency representatives will be formed. Roles and responsibilities of the executive board will include:
Adopt the community enhancements plan or amend as appropriate.
Final decisions and approvals for land disposition, including contracts and agreements, related to the community enhancements plan and land use framework plan.
Represent their respective agency’s entities and provide subject matter expertise.
The board members are to be decided. More information on the makeup of the board can be found in the FONSI.