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Posted on Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 10:43 a.m.

Widening of Ypsilanti's Washtenaw Avenue and Oakwood Street intersection set for summer 2011

By Tom Perkins

The intersection at Washtenaw Avenue and Oakwood Street in Ypsilanti could be widened next summer in an effort to relieve traffic congestion in the area.

Officials are close to finalizing plans that would add a right turn lane to westbound Washtenaw Avenue before Oakwood and a left turn lane to southbound Oakwood before Washtenaw.

The plan, which is a collaboration between Eastern Michigan University and the City of Ypsilanti, also calls for a number of measures to improve pedestrian safety. 

Should plans for the estimated $450,000 project receive approval from the Michigan Department of Transportation before the end of the year, the program will be entirely funded by a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Grant. Officials say the funds would be awarded to the city, which applied for the grant.

If plans aren’t approved by then, EMU will be responsible for 20 percent of the costs. City and university officials must first agree on the project’s plans. The city’s street extends roughly 300 feet north up Oakwood before turning into university property. Oakwood borders the west side of EMU’s campus between Washtenaw Avenue and Huron River Drive.

The intersection is a main entry point for the university’s high volume of commuters, as well as students living nearby off campus. In 2009, EMU officials commissioned a study of the “Oakwood Corridor” that provided a number of suggestions on how to relieve congestion between Washtenaw and Huron River Drive.

Leigh Greden, EMU's executive director of government and community relations, said the intersection is the first project since the study was completed. It was chosen because university officials want to work from the south end of their property to the north, and because grant money to implement it was available.

The university concurrently has numerous other construction projects on its campus, and Greden said funds aren’t available to implement all the study’s suggestions.

Greden and City Planner Teresa Gillotti said the city and university have had good dialogue on the project so far. EMU officials presented plans to the planning commission on Oct. 20 and received input and some concerns from its members. Those officials will present revised plans at Wednesday’s planning commission meeting.


This aerial photo shows the intersection of Washtenaw Avenue and Oakwood Street.

Courtesy of the city of Ypsilanti

Gillotti said some concerns were raised over how the change would impact pedestrians and non-motorized transportation in the area. Efforts like Reimagining Washtenaw Avenue corridor are attempting to make the road less “auto-centric,” and the city wants to make sure traffic flow is improved without impeding those efforts, Gillotti said.

“We want to make sure those two goals are balanced,” she said. “EMU needs to get people to classes, get staff in and out and … we don’t want to end up with competing goals.”

Greden said university officials took suggestions from the Oct. 20 meeting and made several adjustments to their plans. A pedestrian island will be installed in the middle of the Washtenaw Avenue crosswalk just east of Oakwood.

The university also will have a “pedestrian sensor” installed. Once a person stands at the corner of the intersection, a sensor triggers the crosswalk signal instead of the crosswalk being manually activated by someone pushing a button.

Other plans for improvements include:

  • Making the intersection's corners ADA-compliant.
  • Making the corners perpendicular to shorten the crossing distance.
  • Improved striping and signage at the intersection. Also, improved striping, signage and crosswalks along a roughly one-tenth mile stretch of road to the east that intersects with Cross Street.
  • Moving an Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus stop on Washtenaw Avenue about a tenth further east of the lot.
  • Altering nearby entrances to EMU parking lots that sometime cause back-ups into Washtenaw Avenue to allow traffic to more quickly enter lots.

Greden added the university is giving up part of its right-of-way at the northeast corner of the intersection to accommodate the right turn lane on Washtenaw and left turn lane on southbound Oakwood.

Kyle Begley is an EMU student and delivery driver for Domino’s Pizza, which is the only business located in the immediate area. He said the two toughest turns he encounters at the intersection are making a right from westbound Washtenaw onto Oakwood or a left from southbound Oakwood onto Washtenaw.

Although he mostly works evenings and nights, he said those turns still cause delays.

“Most of the time, you still the have the same problems there, but during rush hour it’s a lot more congested, and those problems are a lot more prevalent,” he said. “You can find yourself waiting two or three cycles to turn.”

Greden said he believes the changes will address those and other issues. He said the project will improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety for those who live in and drive through the area, while easing congestion at one of the “gateways” to EMU’s campus.

The intersection and stretch of road east will see pedestrian safety upgrades, he added.

“I think it’s a win-win-win for the city, university and pedestrians,” he said.

Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.


joe golder

Sun, Dec 12, 2010 : 2:31 p.m.

mm1001 cut thru oakwood to huron. go rt and turn left on leforge turn rt on clark. Everbodyelse does.

joe golder

Sun, Dec 12, 2010 : 12:31 p.m.

pvitality The west bound rt turn lane proposed will be aimed at my home. The shot gives an obscure view. When they bring the sidewalk north to make it a straighter shot across oakwood there will be nowhere to put screening or more huge rocks to protect my home. The tax payer are getting fleeced again.I can't believe folks can't see through this unethical ruse. Mayor paul your supposed to be looking out for us too! in 1999 they took the 12 feet of set backs and the corner of my property. What do you call people who steal things?

Garden Goddess

Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 3:42 p.m.

Please tell me how good a neighboor is one that increases traffic in a residential area which supports the city with taxes, while EMU does not? When the value of our homes is depreciated how does this help the city? It is time EMU re-visits parking on their property to the north, and divert the traffic from Washtenaw to Huron River Drive. I thank the city council members that did not give this a green light. Perhaps the council and EMU representaitives would like to hold a meeting sometime in my yard. But wait they would have to halt the meeting too often to wait for the traffic and road roar to die down to be heard. Collegewood Height Neighboor


Wed, Nov 17, 2010 : 8:43 a.m.

Too bad a well-designed roundabout isn't being planned. This could be a great place for one. Traffic could keep moving, yet would be "calmed", and pedestrians and bikes could be accommodated.


Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 4:56 p.m.

Maps during the crusades were created so that the top of the map was east; toward the "Orient" (which simply means the East.) That is where we get the verb "to orient" as in "I was not oriented."


Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 3:14 p.m.

Excellent for the project... Not so excellent for using the aerial photo. The map is not pointing north and there is no north arrow to show you that. It's actually pointing west... very bizarre. Not even street labels. Using a google image would be a lot better for people to realize what they are looking at.

Garden Goddess

Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 1:20 p.m.

Does this mean the property for the expansion will be EMU property, or is more of Collegewood Heights disappearing? Shame to lose one of the cities excellent property tax bases. Are efforts being made to blunt the noise from the increasing traffic? Will trees be planted between Oakwood and the homes that face the school?


Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 1:14 p.m.

While there at it they should convert Cross St. into a two way. I'm tired of cutting through the cross streets and negotiating all of the stop signs to get to my neighborhood near Prospect and Holmes.


Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 12:59 p.m.

EMU trying to help, good for them. I wonder if UofM was willing to help pay for infrastructure repairs on stadium road bridge right in front of the largest football stadium in the country? I'm guessing NO!


Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 12:33 p.m.

EMU is working hard to be a true member of the Ypsilanti community...and this is a good example.


Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 12:18 p.m.

Wow, imagine that, a university contributing to the infrastructure used by the traffic it creates. That is such a novel idea.


Tue, Nov 16, 2010 : 12:06 p.m.

Good idea, lots of traffic specially during morning and late afternoon. With EMU being such a huge commuter school, this is an important issue to consider and complete. I have actually seen EMU officers controlling that light during the 5:00 rush to allow people from Oakwood to turn onto Washtenaw because Oakwood gets so backed up.