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Posted on Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

New pedestrian crossing nears completion on busy portion of Carpenter Road

By Amy Biolchini


The new Carpenter Road mid-block crossing about a half mile south of Packard Road which was constructed by the Washtenaw County Road Commission and paid for with a grant from Pittsfield Township. Overhead lights and flashing beacons have yet to be installed.

Courtney Sacco |

The construction of a new pedestrian mid-block crossing on a busy, five-lane portion of Carpenter Road in Pittsfield Township is nearing completion.

At the request of Pittsfield Township’s Road Committee, the Washtenaw County Road Commission has built a 44-foot-long pedestrian island that takes up the entire middle lane of Carpenter Road about a quarter mile south of Packard Road.

It’s the first of three mid-block pedestrian crossings planned for Carpenter Road in Pittsfield Township as a part of an effort to improve pedestrian safety in the high-traffic corridor.

Bus stops, big box stores, a senior center and a manufactured home park in the area often draw people from one side of the road to the other, said Brent Schlack, senior project manager for traffic and safety for the Washtenaw County Road Commission.

“Every time I’ve been out there I’ve seen a pedestrian crossing. Before, they were just seeking refuge on the center lane,” Schlack said. “I hope that (the new crossing) does encourage more people to utilize the refuge island. You get safety in numbers.”

Mandy Grewal, Pittsfield Township supervisor, said she brought the safety issue before the township’s Road Committee after a pedestrian fatality and a near-miss occurred in 2010 on Carpenter Road just south of Washtenaw Avenue.

Modeling the Carpenter Road improvements off of several effective crossings at Oak Valley Drive and some in the lower Textile Road greenway, Grewal said the new mid-block crossing would not impede traffic or compromise pedestrian safety.

The project cost about $100,000 and is about 90 percent completed, and is awaiting the delivery of steel beams to install overhead lights at the crosswalk, Schlack said. Pittsfield Township is paying for the project in its entirety with Community Development Block Grant money.

“We’re very aggressive in making sure these quality-of-life initiatives are funded by grants and not general fund dollars,” Grewal said.

To increase visibility for pedestrians making their way across Carpenter Road, flashing beacons and overhead lighted signs will be installed as a part of the project in the coming weeks.

One of the perks of the project will be a button pedestrians can push before they cross the street that triggers a flashing warning sign to alert drivers.

“The mid-block crossing typically increases the safety for pedestrians,” Schlack said. “The township’s road committee had a high priority to improve the safety on that portion of the road.”

The speed limit on Carpenter Road is 45 mph.

“I look at it as a good way to put something in place and get people in the corridor accustomed to having crosswalks to encourage people to slow down,” Grewal said.

Unlike the city of Ann Arbor, Pittsfield Township does not have an ordinance that requires drivers to stop for people in crosswalks. Instead, drivers in the township are asked to comply with the state mandate that gives pedestrians the right-of-way.

“I think we have to educate our motorists and our pedestrians to watch out for one another,” Grewal said. “It’s mutual: We need to increase awareness that roadways are used by multiple modes of transit.”

Debbie Adams, executive director of the American House, a senior living community at 3470 Carpenter Road near the newly constructed crosswalk, said the addition was a welcome one.

“A lot of pedestrians and our residents use the bus,” Adams said. “They jet across the street quickly.”

Many of the community’s residents cross the road to get to the Target, and a lot of them travel by motorized scooter, Adams said. She noted that seniors living at American House haven’t been involved in any accidents crossing Carpenter Road yet, but the crosswalk is a needed safety improvement.

“I absolutely, definitely think it’s a good thing,” Adams said.

North of the Packard Road intersection and south of the Washtenaw Avenue crossing, 84-year-old Harry Westhill of Ann Arbor was killed when he was hit by a car while walking across Carpenter Road in November 2010. About a month before that, a 52-year-old Pittsfield Township man being pushed in a wheelchair by his caregiver was seriously injured after being hit by a car while crossing Carpenter Road.

At the time, the Road Commission said it would install mid-block crossings similar to the one that was just constructed on Carpenter by 2012.

The Road Commission decided to wait another two years to install the two crosswalks, Schlack said, using the reasoning that it would just have to tear out its new construction for a $1.75 million scheduled road reconstruction project in 2014. That portion of roadway is about 40 years old.

“It did not make sense to put them in now,” Schlack said.

“These are the constraints you come up with when you work with different funding sources,” Grewal said, noting she wants to be responsible with taxpayer dollars. “We don’t want to put something in place, and then strip it out in a couple years.”

The intersection of Carpenter and Packard is one that a 2010 Wayne State University study concluded had some of the highest incidents of crashes in the county, Schlack said.

A separate $60,000 Road Commission project is in the works for 2013 that will add a small concrete median about 100 feet long between the lanes of traffic on Carpenter Road at the intersection to prevent cars from making left turns out of businesses close to the intersection -- a movement that the road commission believes is responsible for many of the accidents in the area.

The median at the intersection is not intended to serve as a refuge for pedestrians, Schlack said.

View Washtenaw County Road Commission work in a larger map

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


no flamers!

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

I know this was introduced to enhance safety, but I am unaware of data showing this stretch of road to be more hazardous to pedestrians than similar roads with cross walks....if this data exits, I'd appreciate the info. Meanwhile, my view is that this road has too much traffic moving at 50 mph for a crosswalk to be a good solution. I fear that this crosswalk will give pedestrians unwarranted confidence to walk in front of traffic moving 50 mph and will thereby decrease safety. There is no easy answer to getting pedestrians across this road I realize. I would have favored forcing pedestrians to use existing cross-walks at existing street lights in recognition that this stretch of road is about cars, not walkers.

Basic Bob

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 9:07 p.m.

@Napalm, no logic was provided. I drove through there yesterday and was perplexed that so many people need to cross such a busy road mid-block. Safety Town would not approve.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

Bob: Help us out with your "logic". . . having a bus stop makes it reason-able to dash accross five lanes of traffic instead of using a traffic light regulated cross-walk somewhere down the street? ? . . hmmm, (I) must've missed that day at SafetyTown. . .

Basic Bob

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

There is only one reason to cross here rather than at an existing intersection with a traffic light. That is the mid-block bus stop.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 4:42 p.m.

I went there this morning. Very nice.

Ann English

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.

Maybe they decided to do something to prevent people exiting Speedway from turning left onto Carpenter because it's level. It's been years since I saw an accident on Maple just north of Jackson in which someone tried to turn left onto Maple Road away from the intersection. I can see the why no median has ever been put there for cars exiting the Shell station: because it's a steep hill on that side of the intersection; in the winter, it's possible for traffic approaching the intersection from the north to lose traction while waiting for lights to change.

Amy Biolchini

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

Just spoke with Brent Schlack of the Washtenaw County Road Commission. He said the steel supports for the overhead lights at the mid-block crossing will likely be delivered the week of Dec. 10.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

Finally pedestrians are being considered. They should install cameras on the crosswalks to take pics of license plates of those who choose to ignore the signal.


Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 1:27 a.m.

Also to catch people jaywalking and not using the signal when they cross. It goes both ways.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 6:07 p.m.

I'd be all for your idea if they would also put cameras up to catch people jaywalking all over town. (which would be more applicable to the circumstances depicted in this article)


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.

Traffic cameras are illegal in Michigan. A police officer needs to see the violation to issue a citation.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

Funny. I can't say I remember the last time someone was hit by a car before all these fancy crossings came to be...

soggy waffle

Tue, Nov 20, 2012 : 9:48 p.m.

Between 2004 and 2011 there were 53 pedestrian crashes Pittsfield Township. It looks like 4 happened in the general area of the new crossing, 3 of which were serious, though no fatalities. It doesn't sound like a ton, but it is a decent cluster at a non-intersection location. Most Ped-crashes happen at or just before intersections(at least looking at the map) You can see the same data yourself by Googling Michigan Traffic Crash Facts. You can pull up a website of the same name, click query tool, and build queries to do your own analysis.

Amy Biolchini

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

I've put in a FOIA request to Pittsfield Township for car-pedestrian accidents in this stretch of Carpenter Road where the mid-block crossing was just installed. We'll see what that turns up.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

It is not widely known but it happens a lot. The stories don't make the front page. I can't say I remember a pedestrian car accident where the car driver was over 30.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

looks good. good spot for it. now put some light on the three on stadium blvd by MacDonald . still see cars not stopping on the right hand side. three almost got killed. finish the job>

Elijah Shalis

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

There are wayyyyyy toooo many of these crossings going up around town and they seem to be mostly at bus stops. Is the city or AATA paying for these? They should get a car and quit walking and slowing everyone down.

Phillip Farber

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 11:32 p.m.



Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

So what traffic calming techniques are they going to implement to make sure traffic slows down so that these crosswalks are safe? Or are they just going to do the classic blame the drivers for the planners' mistakes when people get killed at this crosswalk?


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

Are they narrowing lanes, reducing the number of lanes, introducing twists and turns into the road, and raising the pedestrian walkway? If it remains a 5-lane straight road, a pedestrian refuge and a yellow crosswalk sign aren't going to slow drivers down once the novelty wears off.

Basic Bob

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

The traffic calming measures are in place. Big yellow signs and a concrete island instead of a center turn lane. Drivers are slowing down to figure out why they have restricted a five lane road with this out-of-place structure.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 1:58 p.m.

Marked crosswalks are 22% more likely to stop traffic (NHWA). 22% effective is better than random fat chance. So Ann Arbor leaders figured they could simply legislate a 'Get thee behind me" law vanquishing the remaining 78% risk of pedestrian death. No other leaders in the entire United States enjoy such awesome bubblestick power as does our A2 City Council (although Rep. Lumm is still not qualified to address the wand master directly). Not even Pittsfield Township has the power - yet.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

woo hoo!. . . "shovel ready" projects!. . . speed humps, and rumble strips to alert drivers of the approaching pedestrian "personal responsibility absence zone" . . . later traffic cameras to record the license plates of crosswalk scofflaws.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

I agree with the portion in the article about educating people on pedestrian safety. Recently my wife and I were driving in that area on a Sunday afternoon after this crosswalk had become functional as far pushing the button to activate the HAWK lights. An elderly couple who I assume may live in the senior housing just started crossing the road without pushing the button. Luckily it was daylight and every driver was able to stop safely however the couple was upset because a few cars had to panic stop. I am hoping the township and the senior living center make sure those folks living there know how to use the crosswalk. At the same time I would hope those of us in vehicles pay attention to it.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 1 p.m.

I smell death...


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

Can someone please clearify if the statement in this article is accurate. "Unlike the City of Ann Arbor, Pittsfield Township does not have an ordinance that require drivers to stop for people IN the crosswalk." Doesn't the Ann Arbor ordiance require drivers to stop people who are APPROACHING a crosswalk?


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

Even though they must stop, they almost never do. I've been stopped at a crosswalk waiting for someone to cross and cars behind me just go into the other lane and fly right by, only to be stopped 100 yards up at the red light. What's the hurry, Ann Arbor drivers?


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Like most other major states (California, Florida, New York), Michigan does require yielding to pedestrians "legally" in a crosswalk. Unlike the Ann Arbor ordinance, they also require pedestrians NOT enter a crosswalk unless it is SAFE to do so which helps determine whether or not they are "legally" in a crosswalk requiring cars to stop. Ann Arbor basically says don't worry about the "safe to enter" part of the crosswalk division of responsibility because cars must stop before pedestrians have to think about SAFE to step off the curb to enter the crosswalk. Very big difference !


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

Doesn't State law say that you must stop for a pedestrian IN a crosswalk anyway? And yes, Ann Arbor reworded their ordinance to read approaching, whatever that means.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

No, it was changed to give the right of way to pedestrians who are beginning to cross. They at least have to be standing at the crosswalk and and waiting to cross.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

If you count the two endpoints (packard-carpenter and carpenter-ellsworth), there are already four traffic lights that pedestrians can cross the street at on that stretch of road. Why do we need an additional crossing point on that stretch of road? By how much does the addition of a crossing point reduce the distance that a pedestrian must walk to reach a safe crossing point? Where does it end? How many crossing points would be enough on this stretch of road? Is five sufficient? Do we need ten? Twenty?


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

I agree w SonnyDog09 that there are enough traffic lights on that stretch of road. I saw that the half mile stretch on Stadium between Packard and Brockman has two crossings only a few hundred feet apart. All of this has gotten way out of hand.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.

Napalm, I do have to agree with you on some points. The near misses were do to jaywalking and at night they had on dark clothing. I also observe many people in my neighborhood walking in the street where there are sidewalks and I too observe that there are many people who cross were ever they want even if the legal crosswalk is only a few feet away. That said I also observe in my neighborhood because I frequently walk my dogs that there are many drivers who don't even slow down for stop signs let alone stop at them. These drivers also go way above the posted 25 mph speed limit, so it goes both ways.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

WalkingJoe: How many of the "near misses" you witnessed were at the already established, traffic light regulated, crosswalks? or were the "near misses" resulting from illegal jay-walking? I agree with SonnyDog09. It seems as though that section of road is already well regulated with traffic lights. I would almost guarantee that that there will continue to be folks crossing at non-crosswalk locations even after these installations are complete. . . it is simply human nature to avail oneself of the least onerous and most direct path toward a destination. Much has also been said(written) about educating drivers as regards pededestrian awareness. Shouldn't there be a comparable education intent directed to pedestrians as to the availability and proper use of EXISTING crosswalks. Once they have demonstrated a proper level of awareness and proper usage of the EXISTING crosswalks we can properly determine the need for MORE crosswalks. Somewhat tangential, but, in my neighborhood (admittedly a subdivision) pedestrians routinely walk in the street (not just crossing the street), at night, clothed in dark garments even though we have a complete network of sidewalks. Lesson: despite that best efforts to provide elements of safety people will do what people will do. . . When do we expect folks to assume some degree of personal responsibility?


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

This is one of the crosswalks I am in full favor of. At night it's dark there and like the article states with the apartments, senior living community, mobile home park and bus stop I personally have seen many near misses while driving past there at night. Even in daylight it can be unsafe.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

Just to be fair it will reduce the distance each way by about 1/2 mile.Not endorsing it just sayin


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 11:16 a.m.

I went through there this past week. A pedestrian crossed and the green lights were flashing. Everyone came to a stop for the people going across the road to the other side and the bus stop. I think it is really nice. Much safer for those using it. The lights are nice and bright.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

Flashing green lights? Not sure I understand that.


Mon, Nov 19, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

That's because of the lights. The ones without lights that does NOT happen at.