Widening of Ypsilanti's Washtenaw Avenue and Oakwood Street intersection set for summer 2011
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.
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.
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 AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2530.