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E-M:/ Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal (DIFT)

Enviro-Mich message from "Savoie, Kathryn" <KSavoie@accesscommunity.org>

Yesterday, residents of Southwest Detroit and Dearborn joined over 20
community, church and business groups for a press conference to announce the
formation of a new coalition, Communities for a Better Rail Alternative.
This coalition was created in response to MDOT's plans to develop a Detroit
Intermodal Freight Terminal (DIFT) in Southwest Detroit/South Dearborn area.
Residents and community leaders are concerned that this project would result
in increased truck traffic, air pollution, noise, loss of housing and
businesses, and fragmentation of our neighborhoods, with no direct benefit
to our communities. 

Our press release is below. Here is the link to the Detroit Free Press
article that ran this morning:

For Immediate Release	Contact: Karen Kavanaugh, (313) 842-0986 x26
July 20, 2001	Kathryn Savoie, (313) 843-2844

New Coalition Forms to Create Alternative to MDOT's Rail-Truck Project  

Calling themselves Communities for a Better Rail Alternative (CBRA), members
of a coalition of nonprofit community and business organizations, and
concerned residents have announced that they will develop an alternative to
the Michigan Department of Transportation's planned Detroit Intermodal
Freight Terminal ("DIFT") in Junction Rail Yard, located in southwest

Communities for a Better Rail Alternative intends to develop a plan that
will improve the transportation of not only freight, but also people,
through the area while at the same time preserving neighborhoods and
reducing the impact of the shipping industry on local communities.
Criticizing MDOT's plan as a threat to the quality of life for residents and
local businesses in southeast Dearborn and southwest Detroit, coalition
members envision a more efficient, cleaner and more secure facility that
will occupy less space and will decrease-not increase-noise and air
pollution in the area.  

"MDOT's plan means more trucks, more air pollution, and more fragmentation
of our communities," said Kathryn Savoie, environmental program director at
ACCESS, and one of the group's spokespersons. "We decided to form
Communities for a Better Rail Alternative so that the people who live and do
business here can develop a better plan than M-DOT's - one that will improve
the quality of life in our neighborhoods."

M-DOT is conducting a feasibility study for the DIFT project, in which it
proposes to consolidate all of metro Detroit's intermodal freight terminals
into one "mega" complex that would stretch across a 7-mile span from
southeast Dearborn and southwest Detroit. The plan would involve expanding
the Livernois/Junction rail yard in southwest Detroit from its current 580
acres to about 1300 acres. Trucks carrying containers for rail transport
would enter the complex via one of nine proposed access gates located at
various points, from Wyoming on the west side to the Michigan Central Depot
on the east side of the facility. According to M-DOT's figures, this plan
could increase the number of trucks in the area by almost 14,000 per day.

"Our community is already heavily burdened by trucks, traffic and industry,"
said Maria Elena Rodriguez, executive director of the Mexicantown Community
Development Corporation.  "This plan could be the last straw. We are
concerned that this project will erode property values, hurt existing
commercial development and tear at the fabric of these communities, without
adding new jobs or contributing to better transportation options for our

Ismael Ahmed, executive director at the Dearborn-based Arab Community Center
for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), expressed similar concerns about
the impact of the project. "ACCESS has been working for three decades to
improve the quality of life in the area," said Ahmed. "We've seen
significant improvements in South Dearborn: the air is cleaner, new homes
are being built. MDOT's plan would really be a big step backwards for our

As one of the proposed access routes to the facility, M-DOT is considering
the installation of an 18-foot deep, 4-lane "truck-only" road that would run
along Dragoon Street from I-75 to an entrance on Livernois, just north of
Vernor. The construction of the subterranean road would require the
destruction of approximately 60 existing homes on the west side of Dragoon,
the loss of Boyer Playfield and could result in the loss of several
businesses. While MDOT materials refer to the plan as a "tunnel," it would
actually be an open (uncovered), depressed highway.

 "This is 'ground zero' for MDOT's plan," said Karen Kavanaugh, a staff
member for the Southwest Detroit Business Association and a CBRA
spokesperson, referring to Boyer Playfield and the neighborhood that
surrounds the park at the intersection of West Vernor and Dragoon.  "If
MDOT's proposal is implemented, this community could lose 60 occupied homes,
functioning businesses, and much-needed park space. That's unacceptable." 

Some residents of the area have also expressed dismay at MDOT's plan.  "We
have too many trucks on our streets already," said Vaughnia Vega, an area
resident. "And this so-called 'tunnel' they want to build will take our
homes and divide our neighborhoods just like the freeways did."  

Coalition spokespersons express the hope that more residents, businesses,
churches and community groups will become involved in the process of
developing an alternative plan. "We don't believe M-DOT's plan is the only
way," said Kavanaugh.  "We want improvements to freight, too, but not at the
expense of our communities.  If we pull together, we can make something good
happen here." 

State Representative Belda Garza is encouraged by the fact that federal
funds will be coming to the area to improve transportation, but is concerned
that residents are not being heard.  "We are very pleased that U.S.
Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick has secured $18 million dollars to
invest in improving transportation in southwest Detroit and Dearborn. We
welcome the opportunity to participate in the decision making process to
ensure that this funding improves the quality of life in our communities and
leverages additional investment."

A list of the organizations currently involved in the coalition is provided
below.  For more information on Communities for a Better Rail Alternative,
contact Karen Kavanaugh at (313) 842-0986 x26 or Kathryn Savoie (313)




*	All Saints Catholic Church
*	Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS)
*	Bagley Housing Association
*	Bridging Communities
*	Clark Park Coalition 
*	Community Network Committees
*	Corktown Citizens District Council
*	Danto Furniture
*	Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation
*	Ecology Center
*	Glinnan Street Block Club 
*	Jeremiah Project 
*	Matrix Theatre
*	Mexicantown Community Development Corporation
*	Michigan Land Use Institute
*	People's Community Services
*	Southwest Detroit Business Association
*	Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision
*	Springwells Community Housing and Development
*	Springwells Village
*	St. Stephens Catholic Church

Kathryn Savoie, Ph.D.
Environmental Program Director
(313) 843-2844
Ksavoie@accesscommunity.org <mailto:Ksavoie@accesscommunity.org> 

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