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Posted on Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 4 p.m.

Roundabout coming to intersection in northeastern Washtenaw County

By Amy Biolchini

The Washtenaw County Road Commission is planning to convert the intersection of Pontiac Trail and Seven Mile Road in northeastern Washtenaw County to a roundabout because of traffic problems that arise during rush hour.


File photo |

The two-lane roadways intersect at a four-way stop in Salem Township.

During peak traffic hours, drivers experience long delays because of the stop sign, according to the Road Commission.

The Road Commission already has secured federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds to convert the intersection into a single-lane roundabout.

A $50,000 contract with Hubbell, Roth and Clark, Inc. for preliminary design services at the intersection is up for approval by the Road Commission at its Tuesday meeting.

The commission also will be considering a number of other items:

  • A $1.2 million construction bid for the installation of a new roundabout at Geddes and Ridge roads in Superior Township
  • A special assessment district for road improvements in phases 2 and 3 in the Leland Acres subdivision in Northfield Township; roads that would be improved are Leland Drive, Trudy Lane, Avon Lane, Avon Court, Tipperary Circle and Glengarry Court
  • 2013 road improvement agreements with Lima Township and Ypsilanti Township
  • A signal interconnect project for 14 traffic signals on Washtenaw Avenue through Ann Arbor Township, Pittsfield Township and Ypsilanti Township to the City of Ypsilanti, including the installation of surveillance cameras

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


Tim Moore

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

While agree $50k to study it is stupid, this is beyond needed. Anyone who travels south on Pontiac Trail between 7am and 8am knows that traffic gets backed up at least a 1/2 mile and sometimes 3/4 of a mile. Once it's been backed up to the library which is near 8 Mile! in the evening at times heading north can be backed up a 1/2 mile as well. You can't put a real traffic light there because you'd need to widen the roads to add left-turn lanes for both 7 Mile and Pontiac Trail. They don't need to study it. Just have every person who travels that way to call and say this is needed. That'll save you the $50k.


Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 2:56 a.m.

Maybe the cost of the study has something to do with the large vernal pond on the southeast corner of the intersection? It was studied in 1940-41 by Roman Kenk of the University of Michigan. I don't know if it's been studied since. Vernal ponds are often overlooked as they dry up in late summer/early fall. But they are important habitats for amphibians and fairy shrimp. It's true, we have freshwater shrimp here in Michigan that only appear in vernal ponds for about 6-8 weeks.


Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 3:41 a.m.

Sorry, the pond is on the southwest corner of the intersection.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 2:34 p.m.

@Boo Radley -- Roundabouts are NOT "better in every way". Only well designed roundabouts are better, and the ones I've encountered in Howell and Brighton are definitely NOT well designed. They ARE TOO SMALL. Hard tight curves, lanes wafting in from the right almost on top of each other and wafting out again left, lane line markings often obscured by snow or rain, too many confusing symbol-signs badly placed in a short distance that you try to interpret while also watching for merging traffic . . .. Roundabouts are a driving horror even for a car. I take it you've never tried to drive a large parcel van through one, never mind a semi. How much acreage does a sufficiently large roundabout take? What will happen to the property (isn't that a local market?) on the NE corner of 7 Mile/Pontiac Trail if this roundabout is properly designed?


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 6:59 p.m.

Modern roundabouts are intentionally small to naturally slow the traffic in it, which in turn minimizes both the number of accidents and their severity. That data is clear on that. Roundabouts from yesteryear are larger. In fact, many old, larger roundabouts have been transformed into modern roundabouts.

Amy Biolchini

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:52 p.m.

I'm interested in hearing from anyone that uses this intersection regularly -- how long have you waited to get through the stop sign?

Tim Moore

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

I travel it every day going to work in Ann Arbor. It's backed up minimum a 1/2 mile in the morning, sometimes even 3/4 of a mile. This morning it took me 10 minutes to travel roughly a 1/2 mile. In the evening, traveling north it can also be backed up a 1/2 mile or so. It's needed badly. Should not take 10-12 minutes to go from 8 Mile Rd. to 7 Mile Rd.

Paul Taylor

Wed, Apr 3, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.

Many, many years ago, you could drive right through, on Pontiac Trail. Then, a stop sign popped up. I was a commuting student at the time, and the then-new stop sign caught me by surprise very late one night. That said, it is only a rush hour problem, largely impacting only Oakland County residents who work or go to school in Washtenaw County.

not a billy

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

Using Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality funds for Seven Mile & Pontiac Trail? I realize the US-12 from Carpenter Road to State Street is a state highway, but come on . . . this would meet the congestion and air quality funding requirements long before this semi-rural intersection. The amount of fuel consumed daily by the cars & trucks sitting in the US-12 traffic could probably fund a really nice road. A large percentage of the traffic at Seven & the Trail is heading to or from their home in Oakland County. Not even Washtenaw taxpayers. My guess is that "someone of influence" lives in the immediate area. I really feel for those poor unfortunate souls in Salem Township that have to put up with so much traffic & pollution. NOT.

Liss Miller

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

A roundabout would turn our dirt road from a freeway during a.m. and p.m. rush hours back to a peaceful rural road. However, just turn west at the Pontiac Trail/N. Territorial intersection, drive to U.S. 23 and then decide what the priority should be.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 2:48 p.m.

No kidding! I drive it daily--it's becoming a potholed nightmare. One of the worst stretches around.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:45 a.m.

Much like putting a computer flush on a toilet. Crap roads all around but state of the art intersections with perfect pavement in the only place where speed should be reduced. Now, just add curbs, Ada compliant mats and a sidewalk to nowhere and we'll have the complete package of nonsense for this rural intersection.

American Indian

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:36 a.m.

Looks Like anyone can get something so ridiculous passed in this town. I say fix the roads first!

Amy Biolchini

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:49 p.m.

Washtenaw County leaders have expressed publicly that they may bring up a discussion on a countywide road tax to, as you put it, fix the roads. Would you support that?

Boo Radley

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:44 a.m.

Ok, Dennis ... So it has taken a hundred years to figure out that round-a-bouts are much better than the intersections and roadways we have been using. But, they are better, in every way. They reduce severe traffic crash injuries, they improve the flow of traffic, save fuel/energy costs, and are less expensive in the long run than installing and maintaining traffic lights. ... You don't even need run electricity way out in the boonies to operate the round-a-bout.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 8:16 p.m.

Amy Biolchini - Go back in time and look at what the county said to the tax payers to get them to vote for some of the existing county taxes Amy and then come back and tell me they don't have taxes for roads. The same goes for Sheriff's patrol, the taxes were passed with that understanding and then they wanted a Rolls Royce jail and the tax payers said no, so they took the road patrols away, figuring people would vote more taxes for road patrols than other things. History is about to repeat itself with road repairs.

Amy Biolchini

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

Ruminator: Ann Arbor-Saline Road over I-94 is scheduled for construction 2014. It was originally slated to be completed this year, but MDOT did not have the funds in its budget to make that happen so it was pushed back: Carpenter Road between Washtenaw Ave. and Packard is scheduled for construction in 2014 as well. Any road work done within the city of Ann Arbor is in part due to a 2 mill tax that city residents pay. The county does not have a road tax to support its operations -- but county leaders have expressed interest in exploring that option:


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

Just think how much faster a few hundred drivers per day can get to soccer practice, Starbucks and home to their McMansions. There is just no sense to fixing roads for thousands of drivers per day like Carpenter, Saline Ann Arbor, US 23, Saline-Milan road or most any street in the City of Ann Arbor. Nope. Common sense spending just won't work for our state and local brain trusts.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:16 p.m.

DennisP, I like smooth roads, too but I can tell you last year the road in front of my house was repaved and now the 35 mile per hour road has become 50 miles per hour road. As I stated earlier before you say there has never been a traffic problem you need to be in the area at rush hour times in the morning and at night.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:20 a.m.

You miss my point by focusing on my rhetoric and not the substance. Smooth roads are a far better than roads with ruts, ditches, pits and potholes. We are loaded with those. While a roundabout may be an improvement over existing intersections, they are not an essential improvement over the maintenance of existing roadways. Anyone can figure that out. Especially at the intersections touted. In some instances, they've been abysmal. The Lee Rd / US 23 series of roundabouts keeps having work done and is constantly cited by motorists in these very pages as an example of bad design. But, while I could believe that such a busy off ramp could use it, I can't believe that the world would stop if Seven Mile and Pontiac Trail didn't get a roundabout for 5 or 10 more years. It's just as useless as the roundabouts at Maple and M-14 (there NEVER was any traffic back up there and it made problems for kids walking to the new school). And now another is proposed at GEddes and Ridge halfway between Ypsi and Canton. In the meantime, tie rods are dropping off cars as they travel on roads that get a shovel of cold patch. You don't think that poorly maintained roads present a traffic hazard? Yet we are making "improvements" of questionable need.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:11 a.m.

I have had so many near misses on round-a-bouts, that I will not avoid anything on the other side of them. Someday, since we are building so many, I will be confined to just the stretch of road in front of my house. If we are going to build them, drivers training and the re-licensing exams need to be adjusted to get people to learn how to use them.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 11:22 p.m.

We went through a hundred years of roads without roundabouts. I can't believe there is a traffic problem so significant at Seven Mile and Pontiac Tr. that requires a $50000 study for a roundabout. I also doubt there's a traffic problem at Geddes and Ridge that requires $1.2M for another roundabout. I do believe that all that money would help pay for quite a nice stretch of road repaving that won't be done. MDOT has its priorities skewed. It loves paying for new things but puts maintenance as a poor step-sister to the fun "projects". If I were a "tough nerd" sitting as a governor, I would order the MDOT to freeze all new projects and divert all funds towards maintenance of existing roads first. When those roads are largely in good shape, then and only then should we begin new projects. It's incredible to me that taxpaying homeowners have to tack on a special assessment for county roads that front their homes but unnecessary roundabouts are installed willy-nilly with $50,000 thrown around like water for "studies".

Amy Biolchini

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

The reason for the roundabout at Geddes and Ridge also involves traffic backups that happen at peak travel times. The intersection is a four-way stop and with added cars because of the opening of the new South Pointe Scholars Charter Academy at the intersection, traffic congestion has become a problem there throughout the last year. The school will be paying for the construction of the roundabout itself, while the Road Commisison will be picking up the tab for "shared costs" like warning signs. As other comments have pointed out, the $50,000 is for the engineering of the roundabout at Pontiac Trail and 7 Mile, not a study. The Road Commission has already secured federal funds for the construction of the project. The Road Commission has a fixed budget made up of state and federal dollars. Here's a list of projects they are funding this year:

not a billy

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

For Boo Radley - PRELIMINARY design.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:42 p.m.

MDOT has nothing to do with those projects. Those roads are county roads. Replacing signalized intersections by roundabouts is money well spend. It improves traffic capacity by about 20%, reduces maintenance costs, and, mind you, saves lives. Plus it also works during power outings. If the county can acquire the required right of way (the usual biggest issue with round about) they should absolutely replace as many traffic signals as possible.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:46 a.m.

If you do not believe there is a traffice problem so significant at Seven Mile and Pontiac Trail I suggest you drive north on Pontiac Trail to Seven Mile Road between 4:45pm and 6:15pm. It can take you 20 minutes on Pontiac Trail to get to 9 Mile.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:24 a.m.

Yes, Ross. Your logic is much more solid... as for "design" vs "study" that's a meaningless distinction because my point is we don't need to spend $$$ on roundabouts now at all when we are being told by the Big Nerd that we need to have a 60% hike in vehicle registration fees and a hefty increase in gas taxes to fund road repairs. If we need to fix existing roads, then do so--then come and identify the improvements. We're not a rich state. We need to prioritize. The Nerd prioritized in his speech, but the actions of the MDOT say otherwise.

Boo Radley

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:45 a.m.

And ... again, the 50k is for design, not "studies". A local scout group could do a study ... it takes engineers to do traffic and roadway design.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:39 a.m.

C'mon, man. Pretty weak logic, all around.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 11:11 p.m.

Wouldn't a traffic signal be a lot less costly? Most stop signs get replaced by traffic sgnals before they go to flu-blown tiny roundabouts.

Tim Moore

Tue, May 7, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

I know this is a month later but, at the 7 Mile/Pontiac Trail instersection you would need to widen the road to add in a left-turn lane. Not only would that be very expensive, I don't think they have the space to be able to do it.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 11:24 p.m.

As I understand it, a traffic signal has a higher total cost of ownership than a circle. The circle is much safer than other intersections. A two minute google search on "traffic circle costs" and "traffic roundabout costs" came up with Arizona's DOT discussion on them: Since Arizona is not known as a hot-bed of liberal-minded thought, I choose it for my example. Maryland's site is more expansive, and claims net cost savings for the things - but recognize that they are counting the savings in lives lost in their equation. Generally, I find that circles simplify patterns when there is sufficient traffic. VanDyke and 18 1/2 Mile is a great circle, for example. I'm less sure if there's enough traffic density on Pontiac Trail and 7 Mile, but hopefully HRC's study will be justify the work or not.

Bill Wilson

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 9:51 p.m.

Amy, Is there any way we could dedicate this roundabout to Eric Mitchell? Maybe a sign.... something?

Amy Biolchini

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:32 p.m.

Bill, that would be a great question for the Washtenaw County Road Commission. Email me at and I can make sure it gets passed on to the right person at the Road Commission.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 9:48 p.m.

"Where we're going, we won't need roads..."


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 9:19 p.m.

$50.000.00 of my tax $$$ just to study it !! could buy a hell of a lot of traffic lights for that alone...dumber and dumber and dumber......maybe just maybe ,when people have to anty up for their 2012 taxs and get sticker shock ( those who work ...) some of these progressives might just get the hint that were being taken for a ride...just wishful thinking I fear...


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

The price tag is high. $50k is 3-4 man months of effort - for a "preliminary design". Whenever the government is the buyer, the price paid is far higher than it should be.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

So form an engineering firm, staff it with college graduates with a few years experience, buy some CAD programs and computers and start submitting bids. When done with that you could start a construction company whose sole purpose is to save taxpayers money, not make a profit.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.

I agree with what Saline Teacher said. Roads is a good exsample of "User Fees" funded through vehicle registration fees and federal/state gasoline tax, if you do not own a vehicle or drive you do not pay much for the roads. I would say from your user name, "motorcycleminer" this is not true.

Boo Radley

Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 1:39 a.m.

It says $50,000 to design it ... not study it. Engineering services and site surveys, etc., do not come cheap. This sounds like a very fiscally responsible change for the long term. Especially now when federal funds are available to contruct new round-a-bouts.


Tue, Apr 2, 2013 : 12:03 a.m.

Roads are primarily funded through vehicle registration fees and federal/state gasoline tax; not income tax. Depending on where you live, some of your property taxes may also pay a little bit for roads.

Basic Bob

Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 11:31 p.m.

and there's no bulbs to change... ever


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 11:11 p.m.

How about Somalia - the Libertarian's Paradise!


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 9:28 p.m.

If you don't want to pay taxes for road improvements, you'll need to move elsewhere. Everybody else is willing to foot the bill, so you can either continue complaining, or like I said, move somewhere else where you don't have to worry about taxes and roads.


Mon, Apr 1, 2013 : 9:27 p.m.

50k is a down payment on A traffic light... ease up !!