Bridging Neighborhoods, a first-of-its-kind program designed to support southwest Detroit residents living near the new Gordie Howe International Bridge, has completed major upgrades to 174 homes, fulfilling the city’s commitment to protect them from the environmental impacts of the new span when it opens.
The I-75 Environmental Mitigation portion of the Bridging Neighborhoods program was created to reduce the impacts of air and noise pollution from increased truck traffic on I-75 leading to the new bridge. Workers have spent the last three years making these improvements to homes in the qualifying footprint that applied for the program.
Upgrades offered included:
• 3,889 new double pane windows, with a minimum STC rating of 27, were installed for improved noise reduction.
• 243 HVAC systems were installed in eligible homes to assist with air purification and mitigate against increased air pollutants.
• HVAC systems will use MERV 13 air filters, which according to the EPA is a filter just one step below filters used in surgical operating rooms.
“Not everyone living near the bridge was lucky enough to be offered a buyout by the state to relocate, so our focus has been on making sure the residents still living near the new bridge are taken care of,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “This is their home, and the city was determined to make sure they received some of the benefit of the new bridge and not just the downsides.”
One of the final residents to receive the home upgrades was Gerald Romero, who lives in the home with his wife, their 8-year-old daughter and their nephew. Romero has lived in his home for 11 years. Since the work was done, Romero noted improvements in his family’s respiratory health thanks to the new HVAC systems, which he said help, especially with seasonal allergies. “The new windows look good and definitely help with the sound. We used to hear the trucks going by and now the windows don’t rattle like the old ones,” Romero said.
The Bridging Neighborhoods Program has two key missions: to help residents who chose to not live near a bridge relocate to another Detroit neighborhood and to retrofit homes of residents north of the I-75 Service Drive who chose to stay to minimize the impact of the bridge. Over the past four years, the program has helped nearly 60 families who didn’t want to live that close to the new bridge relocate to other neighborhoods in Detroit through a home swap program.
Part of $45M Community Benefits agreement
The $6.5M million environmental mitigation program from Bridging Neighborhoods is funded by a larger $45 million community benefits agreement between the City of Detroit, the State of Michigan, Canada, and the residents of Delray. In addition to the environmental mitigation and home swap programs, the agreement included a $10 million job training fund to help train Detroiters for jobs related to the construction of the bridge.
“When we launched the mitigation program in 2019, we canvassed the neighborhood, made calls, held meetings, and mailed literature to make sure every eligible resident could take part in the upgrades. Two phases and 174 mitigations later, hundreds of residents are now sleeping better, breathing better, and living more comfortably in their homes,” said Rico Razo, director of Bridging Neighborhoods.
“When you have the opportunity to invest in the residents of Detroit to mitigate environmental impacts, you do it and you do it well.”
The agreement was negotiated by the Delray Community Advisory Group (CAG), which developed these initiatives to help the Delray community and neighborhoods across the city.
Photo caption: City of Detroit representatives and homeowners gather in front of one of 174 homes to be retrofitted to weather the impact of the Gordie Howe Bridge traffic.