The Bigger Picture?

Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County are planning on developing a complete trans-county multi-use path along the Huron River; some parts are already in place, and others will be ready soon, such as the section between Gallup Park and St. Joseph's Hospital. One section that is somewhat in place, but not really satisfactory, is the section between Argo Dam and Gallup Park. This is shown in red above. I am very familiar with it, having traveled it many times. Starting either at Argo Dam (upper left of picture), the path follows a strip of land between higher and lower sections of the river. At the spot marked "A" the path goes underneath Broadway (people coming from Pontiac Trail can access the trail at this point). The path under Broadway involves some rather sharp turns and blind spots, making it dangerous to ride through at higher speeds. The path then follows a boardwalk leading to an asphalt path along the river in Riverside Park. At the east end of Riverside Park, the cyclist is faced with a choice of continuing onto a sidewalk or going onto Wall Street as it turns towards Maiden Lane. At this point, to continue on to Gallup Park, the cyclist must cross both Maiden Lane and Fuller Roads. There are several ways to do this, but none are appealing for the faint-of-heart or those riding with younger children. Both streets are quite busy, many drivers turn at the intersection, visibility is limited, there are usually several pedestrians on the sidewalks, and navigating the sidewalk curb cuts is tricky, especially at Island Drive. Once safely on the south side of Fuller heading east, there are several busy driveways that need to be crossed which frequently have cars blocking the bike path (yellow dots). Only after passing Mitchell Field and taking the sharp right to the south are you finally free of interference from automobiles.

As an alternative, the route shown in green along the Conrail tracks is very appealing. It is actually possible to ride this now on a mountain bike, although some of it is very gravelly. This path is completely free of automotive interference: it passes under Broadway, Fuller, and Medical Center Drive (the extension of Maiden Lane south of Fuller). Even the bridge over the Huron River (between H and I) is plenty wide enough for the trail. A paved trail along the green line could make cycling not only safe and pleasant for commuters from many parts of north Ann Arbor to the hospitals, North Campus, Huron High School, Pfizer and elsewhere, it might even save time compared to driving for many.

To make it useable, access at multiple points will be necessary. After Argo Dam, the proposed tunnel at E would be the first access point, connecting to Fourth Avenue just a few blocks from Kerrytown and the Farmers' Market. Access at F would connect to the pedestrian bridge which will be built as part of the Broadway Bridge reconstruction on the north side, and to the Gandy Dancer restaurant and State Street on the south side. Another connection, G, would connect to Fuller Road. There would be one or two connections parallel to Medical Center drive at Fuller, H. An informal crossing already exists at I between the parking lots along Fuller and the access road to the Arboretum, used mostly by UM hospital employees. The trail could leave the railroad right-of-way at J and connect with the existing path, giving access to North Campus, the VA Hospital, Mitchell Field, and Gallup Park. The Gallup Park trail will soon be extended on to Washtenaw Community College and St. Joseph Hospital. Gallup Park provides access to Huron High School, Huron Parkway, Devonshire Road, and Dixboro Road. The access points at F, G and I would require crossing the railroad tracks, either at grade or with a bridge or tunnel.