University pauses plans for North Campus transit facility

Sunday, March 13, 2016 - 2:37pm

A proposed project to build a North Campus transit center was halted Saturday due to concerns from Ann Arbor residents.

The University of Michigan's Board of Regents approved initial schematic designs and bids for construction contracts for the center, slated to include a full-service bus depot and maintenance site, called the Transportation Operations and Maintenance Facility, during a 2014 meeting. In January of this year, the University initiated the process for obtaining a State of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality permit for the project. The proposed $38.5 million facility was planned to be located near several residential neighborhoods.

However, in a letter to residents dated Saturday, University President Mark Schlissel said the University would pause the project and suspend the permit application to evaluate community input and study how the transit center would impact residents.

“In the coming weeks we intend to reach out to representatives of the adjacent neighborhoods to better understand their concerns and how they might be addressed,” Schlissel wrote.

The proposed transit center spurred significant outcry from the Ann Arbor community during a neighborhood meeting on Feb. 25. Issues brought up by residents included the University’s lack of transparency with the community, the location of the site and the broader environmental analysis.

Linh Song, School of Social Work lecturer and president of the Glacier Highlands Neighborhood Association, who has been a leading opponent of the facility, said earlier this week she was frustrated by the University’s lack of transparency around the project. 

“It’s not that we’re anti-development … we’re just trying to understand why they chose this site for this purpose, when there are so many lots available that are not residential,” Song said in a March 7 interview. “We’re asking for environmental analysis, traffic reports, air quality … this is data that we hoped they would have on hand while getting so far along the process, and it’s not there.”  

In his letter to residents, Schlissel said the residents at neighborhood meeting made clear the University should have been more mindful of the transit center’s impact on the community before going ahead with the facility. He said the University would be more engaged and transparent with the community before deciding on facilities from now on.

“In the future, our efforts to consider community interests in designing and locating facilities will incorporate more direct formal community outreach earlier in our development approval process,” Schlissel said.