Traffic lights in downtown malfunctioned all night as Detroit boosters tried to impress ESPN

Woodward traffic light failureThousands of people flooded downtown Tuesday night to show support for Detroit’s bid to host the ESPN X Games, an event that could elevate the city’s reputation internationally and inject tens of millions of dollars into the stalled economy.

ESPN was visiting the city as part of a tour of the four finalists vying to land the popular extreme sports event. The other cities are Chicago, Austin and Charlotte, N.C.

Although organizers put on quite the show, which included BMX and skateboarding demonstrations and an electrifying performance by Beastie Boys DJ Mix Master Mike, the city’s failing infrastructure was another story.

Every traffic light on Woodward from I-75 to Grand River in downtown turned dark early in the evening and never came back on, creating hazardous intersections for pedestrians and cars, especially when tens of thousands of baseball fans spilled out of Comerica Park.

“I hope ESPN didn’t notice,” event supporter Matt Byrne half joked. “It’s hard to take Detroit seriously when they can’t even keep the traffic lights on.”

Malfunctioning lights are a common danger for motorists in Detroit. Earlier this month, a motorcyclist was killed at an intersection where traffic lights in all directions often turned green at the same time.

While malfunctioning lights are unlikely to dissuade ESPN officials from selecting Detroit as the host of the Summer X Games in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the root of the problems may: The city is broke and may end up in bankruptcy, which would further diminish services and increase ESPN’s liability risk.

Or maybe Detroit’s grit and resilience are exactly what extreme sports are looking for?

What do you think?

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.