The trail was originally a line of the Grand Trunk Railroad. Much of the right-of-way is significantly below grade. This reduces intersection and turning conflicts, but introduces the challenge of creating safe and accessible points from which users can enter the trail. While below-grade rail lines in downtown settings are found across the US, the Dequindre Cut is unusual in that the corridor is almost 50 feet below grade, an unusually deep urban canyon.
The Dequindre Cut is a 1.2 mile rail-trail that connects the Detroit waterfront to several residential and commercial areas. This project converted an abandoned, derelict railroad corridor into a greenway, preserving the right-of-way for transportation use and creating a valuable amenity for the city and for travelers. A $2 million federal TE award in 2004 leveraged a local match of over half a million dollars to construct the first segment of the trail. The full right-of-way is over four miles long, and an extension to the first segment is already under construction.