Pass the closed expressway ramps and deconstructed overpasses.

Go beyond the nondescript bridge over murky waters. Stroll by the vacant-looking buildings. Ignore the unremarkable environment of the Event Center with its lack of trees and other summer-time greenery. Turn a blind eye to the litter, the cigarette butts, and the ragged individuals standing on street corners because they’ve been moved from their "homes" underneath the aforementioned overpasses.

Try not to notice the weeds crowding out the cracked cement sidewalks; look carefully for road signs though because they are easy to miss amidst the overgrown tree branches swarming the roadsides. Disregard the burned out homes, the boarded up windows, and the masses of tangled grass and wild plants that make up many front yards.

The Michigan Department of Transportation's $55 million construction project, which extends eight miles on southbound I-675, in Saginaw County forces Saginaw County residents and visitors to detour through some embarrassingly blighted areas. The project began in May 2009 will continue on for another six months; it is listed as only 20% complete at www.michigan.gov.

MDOT has web pages, brochures, and email and phone lines set up to inform the public about the project, but apparently someone didn't get the memo. The planned closure of I-675 should have caused the City of Saginaw (including government, residents, business owners, and community agencies) to take into consideration the road and environmental conditions of the detour route, but it didn't. And now another opportunity to clean up Saginaw's act and showcase its potential has been lost.

Pride in ownership. Ownership with pride.

No one wants to live, work, or play in a community that doesn't demonstrate such values. Although sidewalk improvements along Wadsworth, 5th, 6th and Fitzhugh streets in downtown Saginaw are also planned by MDOT, there is no sign of them yet. The current environs are doing little to change the mindset that the City of Saginaw is an ever-growing wasteland.

Neighborhood renewal is not just about job prospects, crime levels, educational achievement, and health care issues. Problems with housing and the local environment affect quality of life and whether or not persons are attracted to come back into declining areas. The City of Saginaw and its residents need to make a commitment to re-creating itself as a sustainable community where disrespect for the local environment is no longer tolerated – and use every opportunity to do so!

In 2010, I-675 northbound traffic will be detoured for more expressway rehabilitation. Hopefully someone will learn from this missed opportunity and start planning for the future.