Brian Stone -Dearborn
Residents in the Southend of Dearborn, Mich. are expressing concern that city and county roads are not getting enough attention.
The issue of roads funding continues to be a complex one, and is being debated at the federal, state, county and local level.
Any resident of Dearborn’s Southend can tell that the roads are a problem: Miller Road and Vernor Road, in particular, have pot holes so large that some residents say they can be easily confused with bomb craters.
Abdullatif Aljahmi is a Yemeni American realtor who said that the roads on the Southend create a “war zone-like” atmosphere for neighboring communities, “The roads cause a major impact on the curb appeal on the Southend of Dearborn. If nobody is taking care of the roads, then the value of the homes decrease because it deters investment in the area” he said
So, residents ask, why isn’t more being done? Officials say, again and again, that funding is the main issue.
At a recent meeting at Salina Elementary, sponsored by Wayne County Commissioner Sam Baydoun, various county and city officials claimed that there just isn’t enough money to go around. That answer has not satisfied some community activists, like Abdulhakem Alsadeh, president of the National Association of Yemeni Americans.
“When I spoke with the city engineer and asked why most of the Southend is under the county’s care [versus the city’s], they dodged the question,” said Alsadeh. “The Yemeni American concerns are the concerns of the rest of the citizens: the city needs to make an effort to meet with the residents, to discuss with the residents and to include this area in their future plans.”
Commissioner Baydoun called many activists to attend the meeting on funding road projects and speak with the Wayne County Federal Aid Committee. The Committee meets quarterly and each city/township has a representative to discuss which road projects need to be prioritized. Miller is slated to be resurfaced in 2021.
“Southend residents simply cannot wait two years for Miller to be fixed, and residents have been avoiding it because it’s horrendous – a war zone like road” said Commissioner Baydoun. Ali Baleed, YABA Executive director also spoke about how the road is in deteriorating condition and it needs to the highest attention.
Other questions about roads funding aren’t just about the total amount spent, but also whether equitable investment is made. The Yemeni American News requested information from the city of Dearborn regarding roads repair projects done by the city over the last two years, and they were able to quickly provide information on which roads were resurfaced over the last two years.
However, after several weeks and multiple requests, the city would not provide information related to the amount spent, raising questions on whether equitable investment is being made. This stands in contrast to the response some community members have received from the county.
“I have to give credit where it’s due: the Wayne County Executive and his staff has been very responsive to our requests and listened to our concerns,” said Alsadeh. “In particular, the office of the county executive and his chief of staff, whom I met with recently to discuss these issues. They say they are making our community a priority, and the recent fixes on Wyoming support that idea.”
Adel Mozip, Dearborn School Board newest trustee spoke on the conditions of Wyoming and Miller. “In Miller, if you’re driving a small car like most of the residents there, you would hear the car shaking while driving from Dix to Eagle Pass. I’m also concerned for the safety of our students riding the bus back and forth daily from the Southend to Edsel Ford High school. This is a safety hazard and I hope the committee considers moving up Miller Rd up on the priority list.”
Part of the confusion on roads funding stems from who is responsible for roads repairs. Roads like Wyoming and Miller roads are county roads, and the county, which has faced financial struggles in recent years, has very little money to go around. Wyoming recently received funds for resurfacing, secured by the former Wayne County Commissioner, Gary Woronchak. Local roads – mainly neighborhood roads – are maintained and managed by the city.
Aljahmi says the bureaucracy makes the process of roads repair even more difficult, “It can be a big mess in order for legislation to move – it’s a lot of bureaucracy, forcing a road fix to go through so many different desks before it gets approved. The people who pay the price for this are the residents of the Southend.”
Adding to the confusion are the larger discussions about state roads funding, with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was elected on the promise she’d “fix the damn roads,” calling for a $0.45 tax on gasoline in order to pay for $2.1 billion more roads repairs each year. The state has a history of not sharing enough roads funding with local communities, though. Even if the gas tax is implemented, questions remain about how much money would go to Wayne County and Dearborn, and whether it would be enough to address the roads problem on the Southend.
Samraa Luqman also spoke on the injustice that Southenders are facing. “Besides the pollution that they’re receiving on a daily basis, the roads are not manageable to navigate either. The rubber hits the road there – literally.”