Detroit's Southwest Greenway expected to start construction in summer 2021

This article is part of Inside Our Outdoors, a series about Southeast Michigan's connected parks, greenways, and trails and how they affect residents' quality of life. It is made possible with funding from the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.

Detroit's been a hotbed for new trail construction this year, with groundbreakings for both the Joe Louis Greenway and a new section of the East RiverWalk. The city will soon be adding another high-profile non-motorized project to that list: the Southwest Greenway.

Spearheaded by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the paved non-motorized path will provide a new travel alternative between Corktown, Southwest Detroit, and the city's West Riverfront. The new greenway will stretch 0.67 miles between 14th Street and Bagley Street, and Jefferson Avenue at Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park. There will be access points at both those sites as well as at Porter Street and Vermont Street. 

The conservancy and other project partners like Ford Motor Company see the new greenway as a safe, convenient route that bicyclists, pedestrians, and other users can use for recreation and to reach local destinations like Honey Bee Market and Ford's planned mobility campus.  

Marc Pasco, communications director for the conservancy, says the new Southwest Greenway will have a similar purpose and feel to the Dequindre Cut, which his nonprofit also oversees.

"It's not going to be as long as the Dequindre Cut, but it will function in the same way," he says. "There will be a couple different entrance points. We'll have it nicely landscaped and lit. We'll operate the same hours we do all the riverfront parks, and we'll have security cameras."
Other planned features include a play area for children, amenities like benches and bike parking, and stormwater management elements.

Like the Dequindre Cut, the new greenway will be built along an old railroad bed that slopes beneath surrounding streets. But unlike the Dequindre Cut, the track the Southwest Greenway will follow, which runs from Michigan Central Station to a tunnel that leads to Windsor, is still partially active. Although the greenway's design is not yet complete, engineers are working on a strategy to keep trail users safe from train traffic.

Connectivity is also a big priority for the Southwest Greenway's planners, who are designing it to link up with the Detroit RiverWalk, the Joe Louis Greenway, and the Iron Belle Trail. 

Construction is expected to begin later this summer and should take about a year to complete. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the conservancy plans to celebrate the groundbreaking with a small in-person ceremony supplemented with online participation.

Southwest Greenway map (DRC)

Southwest Greenway connections (DRC)
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David Sands is a Detroit-based freelance writer. He's covered the news for Huffington Post Detroit as an assistant editor and worked as a staff writer for the transportation news site Mode Shift. Follow him on Twitter @dsandsdetroit.