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Trucks, trains and postcards

Speaking of MDOT-inspired suspicion … If you live in southwest Detroit, or Dearborn’s east end, News Hits suggests that you also keep an eye on the Michigan Department of Transportation. MDOT is considering plans to build several complexes called “intermodal freight terminals” where trains and trucks would meet to exchange cargo — and which could span several hundred acres in the Junction/Livernois area. What’s curious about the project is that few people know about it. And MDOT critics suggest the department is trying to keep it that way.

Earlier this month, MDOT held a meeting on the southwest side. Kathryn Savoie, environmental program director for the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), says she found out about the meeting the day before it took place. Only about 10 residents showed up, she says, compared to the 20 folks from MDOT and its public relations firm. Savoie says that little was revealed about the project at the meeting.

“I learned that MDOT has a project they want to do in the neighborhood, and it’s a very large area that has to be studied. After that I didn’t get a lot of details,” reports Savoie.

Savoie also e-mailed MDOT complaining about the meeting and the lack of information the agency provided.

“Why does this project exist, what is the need? At the meeting Tuesday, there were several references to the fact that this project had been studied for years, but there is nothing on your Web site to indicate that or to demonstrate how those studies led to this step,” wrote Savoie.

She is still waiting for answers.

According to Ari B. Adler, MDOT director of communications, the project will bring trucks and trains to a central facility so that goods can be easily transported. Adler says that the terminals are needed because about 400,000 truck containers are transported each year in the southeast area and MDOT expects that number to increase to 1 million by 2015. The terminal construction is estimated to cost about $100 million, he says.

Adler denies that MDOT is trying to keep the project under wraps. The state agency hired the Corradino Group, a Kentucky-based consulting firm, to publicize the March 13 meeting. According to Joe Corradino, CEO of the firm, his company sent out 5,000 postcards to residents, local businesses, neighborhood groups and churches notifying them of the March 13 meeting.

“This is most extensive mailing we have done,” says Corradino, who has been in the business about 30 years.

Corradino says he is not sure why so few people showed, but made assurances that the public will be made aware when MDOT meetings are scheduled in the future.

Savoie says her group is pushing to have another meeting in April.

We’ll keep you posted — with more than just a postcard.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or cguyette@metrotimes.com

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