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E-M:/ Detroit Panel Rejects DIFT Freight Terminal

Detroit Planning Commission Strongly Rejects Proposed Freight Terminal

Residents Call On MDOT To Ditch The DIFT



DETROITSouthwest Detroit community leaders hailed a decision Thursday by the Detroit City Planning Commission to oppose the proposed Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal (DIFT) and called on state transportation officials to reevaluate their plans.


Citing the DIFT’s likely heavy pollution impacts, business closings, job losses and threats to southwest Detroit’s revitalized neighborhoods, a unanimous City Planning Commission said the Michigan Department of Transportation’s 840-acre proposed freight terminal is unacceptable.


“Clearly the area is experiencing reinvestment,” City Planner Marji Winters told the Planning Commission. “The staff believes the city must preserve and protect this reinvestment.”


In a detailed 17-page report on the DIFT, the city’s planning staff also questioned whether the project would attract enough freight business from Chicago to be economically viable. 


Karen Kavanaugh, planning director with the Southwest Detroit Business Association and co-chair of Communities for A Better Rail Alternative (CBRA), said it’s time for MDOT to dramatically scale back the proposed project.


“We’ve said all along that MDOT’s proposal is too big, too destructive and that our proposed alternative is a better fit for the community,” said Kavanaugh.  “Now that the Detroit City Planning Commission agrees, it’s time for our elected officials to demand that MDOT consider the community’s proposed alternative.”


MDOT says the proposed DIFT would bring 16,000 more trucks a day into southwest Detroit and east Dearborn and require the demolition of 78

businesses and 74 homes.  The planning report cited an initial survey of 13 of the 78 businesses in southwest Detroit targeted for demolition because of the DIFT and showed that 323 employees would be impacted or nearly 25 employees per business. 


Kathryn Savoie, co-chair of CBRA, noted that if those averages hold up nearly 2,000 employees who work in businesses slated for demolition would be impacted by the DIFT. 


MDOT’s DIFT is a ‘destroy the village to save it’ proposal,” said Savoie.  “Here we have a revitalized community in Detroit and MDOT is proposing to plow right through the heart of our neighborhoods, dirty our air with more diesel exhaust and threaten public safety with increased truck traffic.   Apparently Detroit and Dearborn residents are merely collateral damage in MDOT’s eyes.”


The city planning report questioned whether the proposed DIFT was economically viable, noting that MDOT is relying on a 9-year-old study for its proposal.  The report says MDOT’s consultants have failed to document the current need for additional land beyond the 300 acres at the existing Junction Yard rail facility in southwest Detroit.  The planning report went on to say that the goal of MDOT’s project—to accommodate present and future regional truck and rail freight—is not backed up by data and the m realities of railroad ownership as it exists today. 


“(The planning) staff has determined that there are many  unanswered questions regarding the purpose and goal of the project, the primary one being that if the DIFT yard is developed, will it achieve this purpose (stated another way—if they build it will they come)?” the report stated.


CBRA is proposing that MDOT make improvements to the existing 300-acre Junction Yard as well as upgrades to local streets already impacted by heavy truck traffic.  CBRA opposes any expansion of the truck and freight facility that will degrade local residential areas and businesses. 


MDOT is conducting a federal Environmental Impact Statement on the project, but has yet to consider the community’s alternative proposal in its study. 



David Holtz

Sierra Club media coordinator 313.965.0055/313.300.4454 (cell) david.holtz@sierraclub.org