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Posted on Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

$1.3M reconstruction of Forest Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor to start Tuesday

By Ryan J. Stanton


Forest Avenue, shown here on a recent evening, has been in bad shape for years, but it's about to get a complete makeover.

Ryan J. Stanton |

South Forest Avenue — possibly the most tattered street in all of downtown Ann Arbor — is about to get a major facelift, and detours will be in effect starting Tuesday.

The city has announced a temporary traffic control plan that runs through Oct. 31, during which time Forest Avenue will be reconstructed between South University Avenue and Hill Street. The road will be closed to through traffic along the two-block stretch.


Beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 3, South Forest Avenue will be closed to through traffic between South University and Hill Street. These detours will be in effect.

City of Ann Arbor

The city is purposefully waiting until after the University of Michigan's student move-in before starting the two-month project in front of the Landmark student high-rise.

Maggie Ladd, executive director of the South University Area Association, said the road has been in bad shape for years and her group has had to ask the city to patch potholes regularly.

"It's been a horrible mess for a long time, so we're really glad it's going to get taken care of finally," she said.

In addition to fresh pavement, underground utility work is planned along Forest Avenue as part of the nearly $1.3-million project.

That includes replacement of the existing 6-inch water main with 600-plus feet of new 12-inch ductile iron water main along Forest Avenue from Hill Street to Willard Street.

Nick Hutchinson, the city's interim project management unit manager, said the water main on Forest Avenue is in poor condition and undersized.

The work being done also includes installation of a stormwater management system, replacement of curbs and gutters, curb ramps and some sidewalks.

The new stormwater management system will allow rainwater to collect in a stone reservoir located under the street surface and infiltrate back into the ground, thereby removing flow from the city's storm sewer system, which can become overwhelmed during storms.

Beginning on Tuesday, northbound traffic on Forest Avenue will be directed west on Hill Street, north on Church Street, and east on South University Avenue.

Southbound traffic on Forest Avenue will be directed west on South University Avenue, south on Church Street, and east on Hill Street.

Access to driveways will be maintained during the majority of the project. Pedestrian traffic on Forest Avenue will be maintained at all times.

Art Low, manager of Republic Parking, said public access to the Forest Avenue parking garage will be maintained during the project.

"We're going to make it work," he said. "The city is going to work with us. We've got restrictions as far as directional traffic, but we're going to be open for business one way or another."


Bicyclists try their best to avoid the bumpier parts of South Forest Avenue on a recent evening.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Republic Parking manages the city's parking garages for the Downtown Development Authority. Low said there will be signs posted noting Forest Avenue is open to local traffic.

If they have to put employees out to direct people, they'll do that, Low said, but he's hoping the signs will let people know they can still park in the Forest Avenue garage.

The City Council voted in July to award a $965,990 construction contract to the E.T. MacKenzie Co. for the Forest Avenue Improvements Project.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $1,257,000, which includes $78,063 in contributions from the developers of the nearby Landmark and Zaragon Place student high-rises.

Other funding sources include $543,937 from the city's street resurfacing millage, $185,000 from the city's water fund, and $450,000 from the city's stormwater fund.

The stormwater portion of the project will be repaid as a loan to a state revolving fund. The city will receive 50 percent loan forgiveness on the project for water quality improvements.

In addition to the work on the street, renovations and improvements are planned for the Forest Avenue Plaza adjacent to the Forest Avenue parking structure. Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Wed, Sep 4, 2013 : 1:12 a.m.

Then where the heck is uptown?

Eduard Copely

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 6:27 p.m.

praise our city council.

Glenn Galler

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

There is no question S. Forest is bad. Can we also expect Observatory Road in front of Stockwell, Mosher Jordan, and Alice Lloyd will be fixed now that the renovations have been completed to the dorms. There are more potholes than there is actual road.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : noon

Steve: The South U commercial area has been part of the DDA since ithe DDA was created in 1981


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 4:20 a.m.

What Art Low of RPS really means is this construction will give them even more incentive to understaff the facility, create longer lines waiting to exit the structure, and them blame the construction for causing the delay. That structure fills up during home games and I would avoid it like the plague. it would be interesting to monitor the number of time the A2 Police are called to the structure and order the gates raised because all hades is breaking loose in the structure due to poor operations by RPS.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 9:22 p.m.

Ah yes my mistake. I was meaning to say the gates being raised on a Fri or Sat night during the bar rush. I didn't mean to imply it would be done during a game. I have witnessed it multiple times on a Fri or Sat night. Do you care to challenge me on that?


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 10:19 a.m.

I too would be interested to know if the police are called to force the exit gates up, although I would imagine that it would be zero. Parking at the forest garage for nearly a year now I have always seen both exits operating during peak times. Granted there is a wait, but that is hard to blame on a cashier during a rush hour. After all there is always a backup on the freeway when I am leaving as well and that doesn't have anyone stopping the cars and collecting payment. Drew you might be a tad jaded on the parking system in A2.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:52 a.m.



Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:19 a.m.

Let's just tear up all the streets in town at once. At the end of the year.

Jay Thomas

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

On par with the stadium bridge for being an absolute disgrace for the city. The blame rests with the Mayor.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 6:40 p.m. "The cost to overlay a road with 1.5 inches of new asphalt has risen from $52,500 per mile in 1997 to $101,200 per mile in 2012. Crushing and reshaping a road for new pavement cost $166,000 per mile in 1997; in 2012 it was $533,300." So, for 1/4 of a mile of road that requires crushing and reshaping, a cost that should be close to $100k based on what other communities spend, the City of Ann Arbor is spending $1.3 million. Essentially, $1.2 million for improved storm water drainage. Negative vote it away, but it seems excessive. How much water reduction is there compared to just repaving the road??? What is the preferred cost per gallon saved, and how does this project meet that goal? Instead, it is a want, and a spend. That is the same philosophy that got us the City Hall, Glutinous Parking Garage, Bridge instead of a Stop Light on Stadium, and other projects that have ballooned the City Debt.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:04 p.m.

You're not taking into consideration that during a total reconstruction project, you're not just talking about the pavement itself. In urban areas, like Ann Arbor, you have a significant amount of underground infrastructure (utility lines, water/sewer lines, etc).


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 3:28 p.m.

The fine A2 tradition of closing down a busy street at the busiest time of the year...continues.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

$1.3 million for two blocks? I'd think that a much cheaper alternative exists, otherwise, no wonder our streets don't get fixed sooner. Ouch.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8 p.m.

When you do a total reconstruction, it is significantly more expensive than just a resurfacing. Also, the more cheaply you redo a road, the quicker the road will deteriorate. Have you ever driven on an asphalt roadway right after construction only to find that there are tons of divets or bumps in the road? That's what happens when bids go to the lowest bidder. You pay for crap, you get crap.

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

This is a major reconstruction project. They're not just doing a simple repaving, which would cost a lot less. There's a lot of expensive underground utility work involved.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

"It's been a horrible mess for a long time, " This is totally irresponsible. Why NO explanation about WHY it was allowed to get to this point? There are plenty of other streets that are also in terrible shape, and my wife and I did not see one asphalt truck filling potholes around the city this summer. NOT ONE. Your tax dollars are not at work.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.

Guess the statement that " Porous streets are much less noisy, have low heat island effects, help street trees, less expensive, last longer and prevent Black Ice in the winter." needs some data to back up its claims. Really have doubts that it last longer what with water getting into it and then freezing. Sounds great, but is it true or just another Green exaggeration???

Vince Caruso

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

Glad to see another Green Street go in. These streets will greatly reduce the flood and pollution hazard in the Allen's Creek watershed. And it is said that these streets will cost less than conventional streets not including the substantial environmental cost of conventional streets. Would like to see more porous streets which have additional benefits which also absorb all the rainwater by infiltrating it. Porous streets are much less noisy, have low heat island effects, help street trees, less expensive, last longer and prevent Black Ice in the winter. The UofM needs to work with the city to help reduce the runoff on main campus which has major flood and pollution problems where Green Streets would be an obvious choice.

Vince Caruso

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

Greg: MnDOT recently put out a study of Porous highway testing. Five years and 80 Simi trips per day later show it is preforming very well. They state it will be less expensive because of the 20% cost for storm water management saved. Not including the savings in environmental costs and cost savings of not needing sound walls. Also California saw a 50% reduction in death rates on porous highways! Many communities are moving to porous streets. Bangor Maine is planning on doing all it's downtown streets in porous. Have family from north of Bangor, gets very cold there.

Great Lakes Lady

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

"Nick Hutchinson, the city's interim project management unit manager, said the water main on Forest Avenue is in poor condition and undersized.".....the $78K contribution from developers is probably for the water main upgrade.....not road repair......


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 1 p.m.

Dear Saigon Garden, I'll see you in November. Please save a Pork Coconut Hot Pot for me.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:44 p.m.

The lion's share of the responsibility for the condition of Forest Ave. is the construction of Zaragon. Their "contribution" of $78,063 is nothing. Why didn't the city make approval of that project contingent upon putting that road back in usable condition? Every time I drive down Forest I wondered what the deal was with this. Now I know: another case where our unsophisticated city "leaders" didn't represent all the citizens of Ann Arbor by requiring something basic and reasonable from the developer. I'll bet there were over 1,000 heavy trucks on that road (not to mention the other city streets to get there) during construction of this for-profit project. Please wake up, City Council!


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 5:31 p.m.

@CalmDown I too live in that area. We must have two very different recollections of forest BEFORE the Zaragon construction. While it certainly wasn't perfect, it was not the worst stretch of road in all of Ann Arbor - as it is now - either. I don't think there is any argument with getting the building constructed THEN fixing the road. that wasn't the issue. The issue is Zaragon is only on the hook for $78,063 of $1.3M in repairs. Any reasonable person would conclude their share should have been much more than .6%.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

Javajolt1, I agree that the developer for Zaragon owes much more than the $78K. I travel that street enough to have noticed how much worse that stretch of Forest was after Zaragon was finished. I assumed it would be fixed right away -- alas! It is truly an awful stretch of road; I think the problems are much worse in that concentrated area than some of the other roads mentioned in earlier comments. The other roads are bad enough, but the problems are a little more spread out. And I wonder what kind of place parents thought they were bringing their kids to when they pulled up to those fancy digs on Forest Washboard!!


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

Living only a few blocks away I can attest that that section of Forest was in bad shape long before construction of the Landmark began. Waiting until construction was complete was, in my opinion, a wise choice.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

It seems very strange that this repair was not scheduled during the summer months, when the closure would impact far fewer people. Still, any progress on road repair in Ann Arbor is a good thing, and there is far too little of it. To echo others, now let's go after Stadium between the new bridge and S. Seventh, Ann Arbor-Saline between Eisenhower and the south side of the I-94 interchange, multiple points on S. State St., Eisenhower itself, Liberty from Main to Seventh, Washington from Main to Seventh... oh, I could go on for a while!


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

This is OT, but is there any ETA on the traffic circle monstrosity on Ellsworth and State St.?


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 3:03 p.m.

Thanks conair.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

I heard "late September" from one of the shop owners in a strip mall in the affected area.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:25 p.m.

"city purposly waited until AFTER STUDENTS RETURNED"???brilliant timing.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:13 p.m.

as much as this street may need repairs,i can think of other roads that should be repaired first.! how bout s main st over 1-94? or e stadium & s.main st. ? these are highly traveled roads while forest is a side street.! i can only wonder what people from outside the area think when they attend a football game and see the new stadium and chrysler arena in all their glory, yet the roads leading to them are a real mess!


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 12:57 a.m.

Ann Arbor Saline rd north of I-94 is the city and is a car wrecker. Struts, wheels and tie rods have been replaced multiple times on my main car. Forest is actually a bit worse but not much, and since you drive 20-25 instead of 35-45, and the volume of traffic, I agree with murphthesurf, it's needed more. Each year we hear that it is slated for next year. A little birdie told me that Washtenaw county blame it on the state because the state had a time limit to the money they put up for it. I blame that squarely on the count road commission because they are our only way to get that money from the state, they should do a better job.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 7:54 p.m.

If you're talking about Ann Arbor-Saline Rd, that road is already slated for construction next year. Also, the roadway is primarily in Pittsfield Township, not the city of Ann Arbor.

Margo Nichols

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

Let's talk about Jackson/Huron - it's a shame!


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

S Main street does not cross I94. May I assume you are referring to AA-Saline Rd?

Steve Hendel

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

When did Forest Avenue become a 'downtown street'? Surely it is not within the DDA area. Is it?

Ryan J. Stanton

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 3:14 p.m.

The South U district, which is within the DDA district and defined by the city as downtown, is one of a handful of character districts that make up the downtown. Just as there is a Main Street district, a Kerrytown district, and a State Street district, etc., there is a South U district. Each of these districts has its own character, but collectively they are defined as downtown — and you can see that in city planning documents, the downtown zoning code and the downtown design guidelines, etc. Here's a map of the downtown zoning:


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

Actually, I think many people consider the entire campus to be downtown. In the general parlance, "downtown" tends to refer to the center of a city, relative to all the surrounding residential areas. The campus, with the "real' downtown next to it, forms the center of AA, and from the point of view of where most people live, its all "downtown". This may not be proper, or historical, especially in the eyes of those who spend a lot of time downtown or on campus and who therefore see a significant difference between the two. But it is just semantics, and hardly worth the bother to nag someone about.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

@ corn Is that official or your definition?


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:27 p.m.

division divides downtown from campus.s. forest is east of division therefore it is campus.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

My thoughts exactly... Some time ago I posted a similar thought on and they posted a map that shows what the DDA claims to include in their realm. I was amazed.... besides the actual downtown Ann Arbor they include the entire UM campus and If I recall correcly all the way out to Washtenaw on the east.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 10:55 a.m.

What is the reason behind the $78,063? Is that due to some improvement? Compensation to the city for the damage to the road inflicted during construction?


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 10:31 a.m.

I'm not at all surprised that the water main is undersized, given the rapid increase on residents. I wonder what the effect will be on those who moved in those highly priced rooms in the Landmark. I'm sure that and the hassles of construction will make a lot of folks happy. It's too bad this didn't get done before Labor Day.