Project name: The City of Kalamazoo: Reconnecting Communities Pilot Project for Kalamazoo and Michigan Avenues
Program: Reconnecting Communities Pilot
Law: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
Recipient: City of Kalamazoo
Investment amount: $12,272,799
Congressional district: 4
Construction start date: Estimated start on Kalamazoo Avenue in 2024–2025; later for Michigan Avenue
This profile is part of a project that finds and tracks the public and private sector investments generated or supported by three of the Biden administration’s economic laws. These laws make investments in the American people, helping to grow the middle class, lowering the cost of living, and setting up America to better compete and cooperate in the world. Pulling directly from several sources, this catalog provides users with publicly available information such as the number of jobs created, workforce training partnerships, and storytellers benefiting from particular projects, among other detailed information. The profile below expands on the economic, practical, and climate impacts of just one of the 35,000 investments that can be found in the Biden Administration Investment Tracker. It may be updated to account for future project developments.
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This project will convert a four- to five-lane one-way street in the Central Business District neighborhood of Kalamazoo, Michigan, to a two-way street with pedestrian infrastructure and bus stops, helping to create a safer, more accessible downtown for cars, pedestrians, and bikers. The $12 million grant from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will yield a $22.5 million regional benefit and help reconnect a predominantly Black neighborhood and the city’s Central Business District 60 years after the Michigan Department of Transportation followed “historic redlining practices” and constructed this high-speed physical barrier. The project will make the neighborhood more accessible and livable.
A one-way street system, implemented approximately 60 years ago, physically separated a predominantly Black neighborhood and Kalamazoo’s Central Business District:
- Following historic redlining practices, a one-way street system imposed by the Michigan Department of Transportation on the east-west corridor of Kalamazoo’s Central Business District created a physical barrier between the city’s northside—a predominantly Black neighborhood—and the business and commercial development of the Central Business District core, severely limiting access and opportunity. – U.S. Department of Transportation, last accessed June 2023
- “Michigan DOT designated these roads as one-way roads approximately 60 years ago, creating a high-speed and high-volume traffic corridor through downtown, dividing the community and creating access barriers for neighborhoods.” – Public Square, March 2, 2023
- “When the roads were originally designed, it followed ‘historic redlining practices,’ DOT wrote, creating a barrier between Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood, the city’s predominantly Black neighborhood, and the central business district.” – The Detroit News, March 1, 2023
- “The Michigan Department of Transportation laid out one-way east-west streets downtown about 60 years ago, creating a ‘physical barrier’ between the predominantly Black Northside neighborhood and the central area. It says divides were exacerbated by the traffic that moves quickly through downtown.” – WOOD-TV, February 28, 2023
- “In Kalamazoo, Michigan—not involving a freeway, but downtown streets that were converted to three-lane, one-way couplets to move traffic quickly through the urban core at the expense of walkability and access of nearby neighborhoods.” – Public Square, March 2, 2023
- “One-way traffic was predicted to move cars through Downtown Kalamazoo faster, which was the Department of State Highways’ priority. In this, it succeeded. Within a year the State measured speeds at 11 mph faster than before the conversion and with drivers having to make fewer stops when passing through Downtown. While vehicles moved faster through Downtown, economic vitality and travel to Downtown, especially by foot and bicycle, suffered.” – Imagine Kalamazoo, last accessed March 2023
The project will upgrade Kalamazoo and Michigan Avenues with traffic-calming measures and pedestrian, bicycle, and transit improvements:
- “Michigan Avenue will shift from a four- to five-lane one-way street with parking on both sides to a two-way street with single lanes, dedicated left turn lanes, on-street parking, and bike lanes, as well as pedestrian infrastructure. Kalamazoo Avenue will shift from a three-lane one-way street to a two-way road with two-lanes in each direction and a center turn lane with pedestrian infrastructure and bus stops.” – U.S. Department of Transportation, February 28, 2023
- “The project will serve as a ‘cornerstone project’ for the city’s downtown, improving safety, mobility, and community connectivity.” – U.S. Department of Transportation, February 28, 2023
Outcomes, improvements, and practical impact
The project will help make a safer, more accessible downtown for cars, pedestrians, and bikers:
- Converting from one-way to two-way traffic on Kalamazoo and Michigan Avenues is intended to facilitate east-west traffic. By doing so, the accessibility and livability of the area will be improved with “safer speeds, less traffic noise, and fewer emissions.” Overhauling the city’s downtown will improve traffic safety and provide increased opportunity for full economic potential. – NowKalamazoo, July 19, 2022
- Including “traffic calming” measures, along with added pedestrian infrastructure and bike lanes, will reverse the original design, “ferrying ‘high-speed and high-volume’ traffic through the city.” – The Detroit News, March 1, 2023
- “[City planner Christina] Anderson said the changes they’re making with the project will help connect surrounding neighborhoods, the central business district core and local educational institutions.”– WOOD-TV, February 28, 2023
- “Smart traffic signals, transit upgrades, and improvements to pedestrian movements are also planned as part of this project.” – Imagine Kalamazoo, last accessed March 2023
- Overhauling the streets will change the atmosphere of the downtown area, as “better flowing traffic, more uniform speeds and lower speeds … reduce emissions and noise.” Because the one-ways were instituted to move traffic more quickly through town, reverting to two-way streets will slow traffic. This will improve safety, as “faster speeds aren’t amenable to having a downtown atmosphere.” Additionally, many lanes will be narrowed since “drivers are shown to reduce speeds if they feel constrained while traveling in lanes that aren’t as wide.” – MLive, February 12, 2023
- “The $12.27 million grant will cover half of the capital project, which will also upgrade very old water and sewer infrastructure under the thoroughfares.” – Public Square, March 2, 2023
Racial equity and justice impact
The new project will help remedy the impact of historic redlining:
- “This project will help address the consequences of redlining and boost economic opportunity in Kalamazoo – while increasing safety, mobility and community connectivity,’ Senator [Gary] Peters said in a statement.” – MLive, February 17, 2023
- “The redesign of two high-speed, one-way streets in Kalamazoo into safer streets that are easier for residents of the predominantly Black Northside neighborhood to cross.” – AmericaWalks, March 1, 2023
The project will address the underperformance of businesses in the Central Business District:
- Reasons for underperformance include difficulty navigating one-way streets downtown, outdated management of parking, and lack of connection between downtown businesses and college students. – News Channel 3, July 31, 2022
- “According to the analysis, if the city converts one-way to two-ways, there would be an additional $20 million in retail revenue and an estimated increase of 52,000 square feet of leasing space.” – News Channel 3, July 31, 2022
- One-way streets are not designed to provide access to businesses, commercial, residential, or other activities along the sides of the streets, often forcing drivers to take circuitous routes and try to cross streets with high-speed and high-volume traffic. Converting to two-way streets provides more direct access to businesses and residences, making the region more inviting. – NowKalamazoo, July 19, 2022
- Improved connectivity between downtown, adjacent neighborhoods, and institutions such as Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, and Bronson will support the downtown’s economic vitality. – NowKalamazoo, July 19, 2022
The one-way street conversion will yield an estimated $22.5 million economic benefit, according to a cost-benefit analysis conducted for the Reconnecting Communities Pilot grant application. – MLive, March 3, 2023
- Impact breakdown (at a 7 percent discount rate)
- $22.1 million will go toward new design features that increase the safety and rates of active transportation, addressing the issue of speed-related crashes while not having amenities for multimodal mobility.
- $0.9 million will go toward bike racks and step-free access, addressing the issue of the lack of amenities at current bus stops for waiting riders.
- $2.8 million will go toward top-grade bike infrastructure providing an east-west connection to the growing bikeway network and new ridership, addressing the issue of the lack of bike infrastructure not attracting cyclists.
- $2.3 million will go toward new facilities retaining value and outpacing the forecast period, with nondeteriorated value counting toward residual value.
- $5.5 million will go toward slowing down vehicular traffic.
Official supporting statements
- U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI): “This project will help address the consequences of redlining and boost economic opportunity in Kalamazoo – while increasing safety, mobility and community connectivity. … I’m proud to have helped pass the bipartisan infrastructure law that made this funding a reality.” – MLive, February 17, 2023
- Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg (D): “‘Transportation should connect, not divide, people and communities.’ … This funding ‘will unite neighborhoods, ensure the future is better than the past, and provide Americans with better access to jobs, health care, groceries and other essentials.’” – The Detroit News, March 1, 2023
- “Converting Kalamazoo Avenue to a two-way street will likely benefit downtown businesses” – News Channel 3, July 31, 2022
- “Kalamazoo gets $12M federal grant for downtown streets” – WOOD-TV, February 28, 2023
- “Kalamazoo is ditching most of its one-way streets – back to the way they used to be” – MLive, February 14, 2023
- “$22M public benefit expected when 2 Kalamazoo streets turn to two-way traffic, study says” – MLive, March 3, 2023
- “Kalamazoo gets $12M grant to help reconstruct downtown streets for two-way travel” – MLive, February 17, 2023
- A related project also funded by the IIJA is a $5 million investment in the Downtown Kalamazoo Transportation Network. This planning grant will redesign the Downtown Kalamazoo Transportation Network to be more walkable based on a complete streets design, including converting Kalamazoo Avenue from a one-way street to a two-way street. The high-speed and high-volume corridor of downtown has separated neighborhoods, perpetuated old “redline district” boundaries, and contributed significantly to the speed-related crash rates that are higher per million vehicles than I-94. – U.S. Department of Transportation, last accessed March 2023