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  • City Slang: Music review roundup

    Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, Metro Times, 1200 Woodward Heights, Ferndale MI 48220. Email MP3s and streaming links to Ricky Rat’s Tokyo Pop/Glitter People (New Fortune) 7” single highlights all that’s great about the Trash Brats guitarist, but also his limitations. The man can write a bubblegum rock ’n’ roll song to match anyone in the city and most beyond. He’s also a killer guitarist, ripping out one throwaway riff after another with reckless abandon. He’s a machine. On his own though, without Trash Brats frontman Brian McCarty, his voice doesn’t have enough strength to do the songs justice. Not that you need to have the greatest voice in the world to sing this stuff – you don’t need to be able to perform vocal gymnastics – but you do have to be able to wail the tunes out. Both of the songs on this single are great, but you can’t help but wonder how much better they would sound with McCarty or somebody similar talking the mic. Still, as they are the songs are great fun. We’re just being picky. The Paper Sound’s Trajectories is a dense, atypically dark Americana-tinged album, unrelenting and […]

    The post City Slang: Music review roundup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes

    “Neighbors wanted.” That’s the message on the homepage of, a new website launched by the City of Detroit today to auction off city-owned homes to prospective buyers who pledge to fix them up and move in. “We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement today. “There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment.” The website to facilitate the auctions went live this afternoon. The first auction is scheduled to take place Monday, May 5. Officials said in a news release that one home will be auctioned per day, Monday through Friday. Fifteen homes are available for sale on the site, a dozen of which are in the East English Village neighborhood. Any Michigan resident, company, or organization that can do business in the state can bid, according to the website. Properties will be for sale for only one day, with bidding taking place from 8 […]

    The post Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes

    In case you haven’t heard, two of the biggest names in film, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, are collaborating to put on a benefit concert for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this summer. In case you wanted to go- well, you’re too damn late. The DSO says tickets to the June 14 concert were snapped up in a record-breaking 15 minutes after they went on sale at 9 a.m. today. The DSO has since released this statement to fans who didn’t snag seats: Our apologies to everyone who was unable to buy tickets this morning for our historic benefit concert featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Despite increasing our phone and internet system capacity for the day, a surge of hundreds of ticket buyers purchased tickets in a matter of minutes, filling the phone lines and temporarily maxing out our web servers. After a one-hour pre-sale made available to donors and subscribers at 8am, we released additional seats at 9am to the general public, including seats available for as low as $30. All seats sold out immediately. The concert program seems nothing short of top notch: Williams will conduct the orchestra as it performs some of his most iconic tunes, such […]

    The post Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Blowout 2014 schedule available to view now

    The schedule for Blowout 17, taking place Wednesday April 30 to Saturday May 3 in Hamtramck, Detroit and Ferndale, is available to see now. Visit to see the schedule and plan your festival. Follow @City_Slang

    The post Blowout 2014 schedule available to view now appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Trash Brats get sleazy at Small’s

    The Trash Brats hardly ever play live anymore, so each show feels like an event. Wandering around Small’s in Hamtramck late Saturday night, there’s a near-carnival atmosphere in the air. The Brats were never supposed to be taken seriously, but years on-and-off the radar have given the band the gift of respect born out of longevity. We’re not being dismissive at all. In fact, no amount of kooky faces from guitarist Ricky Rat and bassist Toni Romeo can hide the fact that these boys can play and the band writes killer bubblegum sleaze-rock tunes. The fact that the venue was packed compared to, say, a recent show by internationally known punk icons Sylvain Sylvain and Glen Matlock (which you would think would attract a similar audience) is testament to the fact that, in Detroit, the Trash Brats command a certain reverence. Before the Trash Brats took to the stage, local punks The Dives kicked off the night with a set of sincere, energetic and well-performed, if standard, punk rock. No frills (besides frontman Ron McPherson’s dapper suit), the band features members of the Junk Monkeys, the Black Mollies and the Joint Chiefs, and it drives through a set of catchy, […]

    The post City Slang: Trash Brats get sleazy at Small’s appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Cycle 7 opens at the Red Bull House of Art

    By: Ayana Bryant-Weekes The Red Bull House of Art, a multidisciplinary and collaborative art project, relieves the stress of financial limitation or lack of tools and space so budding artists can manifest their creative dreams right here in Detroit. Six artists are selected for a three-month residency where they are provided individual studio space and materials, allowing their artistic concepts to flow freely. At the end of each residency is an unveiling and public display at the Red Bull House of Art Gallery. As show curator Matt Eaton told us in a 2013 interview, “The selection process for the current crop of artists was just the same as every round. The goal is not to find the hippest, coolest artists (though I think they are all very cool), but to find the people who may not typically have a voice.” This year, for the first time, Red Bull House of Art will showcase more than just Detroit artists. National artists from across the country in a special artist-in-residency program will have the opportunity to showcase their work to a much broader audience, and bring a national art stage to the Motor City. Since opening, 54 Detroit-based artists have been given the […]

    The post Cycle 7 opens at the Red Bull House of Art appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Cover Story

A highway runs through it

Is it really a good idea to spend $1.8 billion expanding a 6.7-mile stretch of I-94 in Detroit?

Photo: Robert Nixon, License: N/A

Robert Nixon

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Robert Nixon

MDOT’s expansion plan calls for removing overpasses that link Midtown and New Center.

Imagine: It’s four in the afternoon and you’re traveling eastbound on the Edsel Ford Freeway, commonly known as Interstate 94, from Dearborn to Mount Clemens after a long day at the office. You’re eager to get home and sit down at the kitchen table for a nice dinner. But, as you approach the Interstate 75 interchange in Detroit you begin to slow down. Traffic is starting to build up. You attempt to weave your way through the parade of vehicles, but there’s no way around the growing jam. It is rush hour and you are stuck.

That’s not exactly a unique scenario. For decades, commuters have been dealing with a stretch of I-94 that clogs badly during rush hour.

For 20 years now, the Michigan Department of Transportation has said it wants to alleviate the problem. A plan that’s been in the works since 1992 — dubbed the I-94 Rehabilitation Project — would add one lane in each direction along a 6.7-mile stretch of the freeway between I-96 and Conner Avenue, installing continuous service roads to accommodate local traffic along both sides of the freeway and eliminating left-lane entrance and exit ramps. MDOT says the project would drastically relieve congestion for the 160,000 drivers who use the Ford each day.

And the $1.8 billion project could finally become a reality.

But is it really a good idea?

Critics of the proposal say no. What they see is a boondoggle that will do more harm than good, threatening the burgeoning recovery of areas such as Midtown while pouring public money into an outdated and ineffective 1950s-style auto-centric transportation model when it should be considering new ways to address a decades-old problem.

Creation of the Edsel Ford Freeway was first outlined in a 1944 federal report titled “Interregional Highways.” The study, conducted by the National Interregional Highway Committee, proposed a limited access freeway between Detroit and Chicago.

Construction of the stretch between I-96 and Conner that MDOT now wants to expand began in 1947 and was completed in 1958, at a cost of $110 million. It became the second link in the city’s expressway system, with part of the John C. Lodge Expressway (M-10) already in use.

As explained by a 1954 brochure from the state highway department (cited at length in the environmental impact study conducted as part of the expansion project currently being proposed), the two roadways brought the region immense benefit:

“The Edsel Ford and John C. Lodge expressways will relieve greatly the present serious traffic congestion problem in the metropolitan area … reducing travel time and eliminating inconvenience and discomfort that go with driving on heavily congested streets. Because of the limited access features and elimination of cross traffic, it will be possible to drive safely on the expressways at speeds much greater than is possible on main traffic thoroughfares. … The expressways will add to the beauty of the city, will speed workers from homes to factories and return, and shoppers to and from the downtown area over the safest type of highway designed today.”

There was also a crippling downside for the city of Detroit that wasn’t foreseen when the freeways were first envisioned: Thanks in large part to a system that allowed those with cars to commute to jobs in the city, Detroit’s population began to fall, slowly at first, then accelerating as the exodus helped create a downward economic spiral. The more people left, the more the city’s tax revenues declined, leading to reductions in service and quality of life, and exacerbating growing social problems. Those deteriorating conditions prompted even more people to flee, forcing tax revenues even lower. On it went, helping bring the Motor City to where it is today, on the verge of bankruptcy.

Other factors — including, among other things, racism, federal housing policies and the decline of the American auto industry — certainly helped contribute to the city’s epic decline. But it’s also just as certain freeways are a significant part of the reason Detroit’s population plummeted from a high of nearly 1.9 million in the 1950s to what’s currently estimated to be about 700,000.

As for the congestion described in that brochure almost 60 years ago, it has moved from city surface streets to the highways — with the daily jams along I-94 among the region’s worst.

The way to correct that problem, contends MDOT, is to pour yet more cement.

Although it has been languishing for years, proponents contend that the I-94 expansion project is as badly needed as ever. For starters, as the narrator in a MDOT promotional video for the project titled “I-94: Roadway to Detroit’s Future” points out, the work will enable the freeway to comply with stricter federal highway standards that are currently in the works.

Beyond that, says MDOT senior project manager Terry Stepanski, is the prospect that the project will cut down on accidents along with relieving congestion.

“We continuously studied this section of the roadway and it is a part of the roadway that has a high amount of crashes,” Stepanski says. “We do know from data that we have that the result of the project will reduce the amount of crashes.”

That will be accomplished in part, he says, by constructing continuous service drives along the revamped stretch. The idea is that the service roads will help keep local traffic off the freeway. Constructing longer acceleration and deceleration lanes would play a role, as will new entrance and exit ramps. Stepanski says there was a definite decrease in traffic along I-94 when the national economy took a sharp downturn in 2008. But MDOT’s research shows that traffic along I-94 has picked back up recently as the area’s economy has improved, suggesting a need to make the road capable of handling a heavier load heading into the future.

For pedestrian traffic in the area of the project, Stepanski says bicyclists and pedestrians would benefit immensely from the expansion because MDOT plans to add sidewalks to the 67 overpasses it plans to reconstruct as part of the undertaking. The service drives would also be designed to accommodate bicycle traffic and foot traffic.

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