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Posted on Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 7:30 p.m.

Ypsilanti City Council approves Washtenaw Avenue and Oakwood intersection construction

By Tom Perkins

Construction will likely begin in spring on an Eastern Michigan University-developed plan to make improvements to the Oakwood Street and Washtenaw Avenue intersection.

The project is intended to improve pedestrian safety and alleviate congestion there and throughout the Oakwood Street corridor. But not all residents in the area are convinced the changes are improvements or go far enough to address the issues.

The plan also failed to receive approval from the planning commission, but City Council supported it 7-0 at its meeting Tuesday night.

Some residents and planning commission members think the university should have planned to improve the entire Oakwood corridor while it was investing more than $200 million in capital improvement projects in recent years. Those projects have heavily increased traffic along Oakwood Street, which borders campus’s west side.

Joe Golder, who lives at Washtenaw and Oakwood, called the project a “bunker buster on my dreams of being a homeowner” at the intersection.

“I think its appalling EMU, knowing they were going to do this over the last 10 years, didn’t put in proper infrastructure,” he said.

When construction is completed next year, westbound Washtenaw east of Oakwood will have an additional right turn lane, while southbound Oakwood approaching Washtenaw will have an additional left turn lane.

A pedestrian island will be added to Washtenaw Avenue just east of Oakwood and all four corners will be made compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Additionally, the intersection’s corners will be squared up, shortening the crosswalks by up to 16 feet. The crosswalk signals will be coordinated with the traffic lights so pedestrians don’t need to push a button to activate them.

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Improvements are planned at the Washtenaw/Oakwood intersection bordering the Eastern Michigan University campus in Ypsilanti.

Signs and pavement stripes will be added to prevent traffic stopped on southbound Oakwood from blocking driveways. The university also has committed to adding a landscape screen to block some light pollution along Oakwood. Oakwood's lanes north of Washtenaw will be slimmed to 11 feet wide, and the western edge of the road will be shifted several feet east. EMU officials said that will also help provide an additional green buffer for residents there.

Leigh Greden, executive director of community and government relations for EMU, said officials are discussing with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority the possibility of moving a bus stop on the north side of Washtenaw further to the east so buses don't block the new right hand turn bay.

He said the university is also exploring how to improve its parking lot system campus wide, and officials plan to improve flow into the entrance of a lot north of Washtenaw and east of Oakwood that sometimes has traffic backing out into the road.

The nearly $450,000 project will be entirely funded by a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant if the Michigan Department of Transportation approves the plans before the end of the month. The council technically approved the application for the grant by approving the plan. If plans are not approved by MDOT until next year, then EMU will have to pick up 20 percent of the costs. The project will not cost the city any money.

Opponents of the project have also contended that EMU should first address issues at Huron River Drive and Oakwood, where there are a high number of accidents. They say addressing issues there could alleviate congestion at the south end of the corridor and minimize the need for changes at Washtenaw and Oakwood.

During a presentation on the project, Greden said a study of the Oakwood corridor showed congestion at Oakwood and Washtenaw is more of a concern, while improving safety at Oakwood and Huron River Drive is the primary objective there.

“We’re here because there’s a grant, and in this difficult fiscal environment we sort of chase the money,” Greden said. “To be blunt, if it were a safety grant instead of a congestion grant, we would be here talking about Oakwood and Huron River Drive.”

The city will need to obtain easements from two property owners on the southeast and southwest corners of the intersection to perform some of the work. One resident who has opposed parts of the project has the ability to veto the preferred pedestrian island by not allowing the easement, but officials say there is a second type of island that could work if that happens.

Council members generally expressed support for the project despite a few concerns. Council Member Mike Bodary said pedestrians nearly have to run across the crosswalk on Washtenaw because the light cycle is so short. He said he would like to see MDOT change the length of the cycle to allow more time for crossing.

Council member Lois Richardson agreed and said she viewed the pedestrian island as a danger because it left people out in the middle of Washtenaw Avenue.

City Planner Teresa Gillotti said although the plan failed to gain approval from the Planning Commission, everyone agreed the university had worked to make improvements to its plans. She also said EMU and the city had signed a memorandum of understanding under which university officials will notify the city of any major campus projects several years ahead of time.

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Pete Murdock

Frank Wright has been one of the more vocal opponents throughout the project.

“(The plan) is incomplete and it does not go far enough to address the dangers of the entire corridor, it is merely a Band-Aid,” he said Tuesday night. “The construction is not driven by EMU’s concerns for its neighbors, as we have seen, because we have been in discussion for several years. It’s driven by complaints from their staff and students.”

Council Member Pete Murdock said some residents won’t be happy until EMU is moved 1,000 feet to the northeast. He said the issue that needs to be addressed is getting students in and out of campus more efficiently.

“There’s not much more that can be done with that intersection,” he said. “We have other larger issues with getting traffic in and out of EMU ... when I look at those cars backed up there, they’re all single occupancy vehicles, and we have to get out of that somehow, but I don’t have the magic bullet.”

Greden said EMU is working hard to address traffic issues in the area. "This project is the first part in a long-term strategy to improve Oakwood that will benefit residents, the city and the university," he said.


joe golder

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 2:25 p.m.

I was told today that the sidewalk and light will be put even closer to my front door. Shame on the residential terrorist.

joe golder

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 12:13 p.m.

The only thing being mitigated here is the time it takes to load and unload parking lots. Giving more light time anywhere at the intersection means less time somewhere else councilman Bodary. There is a huge problem here that no one wants to admit. Emu turned this intersection into a main entrance to several walmarts. putting an extra lane hear and there is only going to make things more dangerous for visitors to emu and more importantly the residents at the intersection who live hear year round. Even more importantly some their lives. EMU should be held accountable and pay for the correct fix. There are to many vehicles at the intersection. Too many!!!!! If council and the planners cannot see this we will continue to be assaulted by ad hok agendas that are responsible for the decline in quality of life in ypsilanti. The city is responsible for the problems all over this city. Please stay out of this. Your track record proves how dangerous you can be. The 7-0 vote proves it.

joe golder

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 11:26 a.m.

I forgot to say the other thing being mitigated are the rights of the good people hear who pay the taxes. I have a big problem with where were at on your list of priorities city council.

joe golder

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 11:07 a.m.

The only thing being mitigated here is the time it takes to load and unload parking lots. Giving more light time anywhere at the intersection means less time somewhere else councilman Bodary. There is a huge problem here that no one wants to admit. Emu turned this intersection into a main entrance to several walmarts. putting an extra lane hear and there is only going to make things more dangerous for visitors to emu and more importantly the residents at the intersection who live hear year round. Even more importantly some their lives. EMU should be held accountable and pay for the correct fix. There are to many vehicles at the intersection. Too many!!!!! If council and the planners cannot see this we will continue to be assaulted by ad hok agendas that are responsible for the decline in quality of life in ypsilanti. The city is responsible for the problems all over this city. Please stay out of this. Your track record proves how dangerous you can be. The 7-0 vote proves it.

joe golder

Mon, Dec 13, 2010 : 10:11 a.m.

wait think I appreciate your sentiment and your brothers situation. I lived here and they put a pig farm next to me. Misappropriated funds were used to fund this in 1999. Home owners went to work and came home to a tore up street and a note on the door telling them to park somewhere else. There were no public hearings. The opportunity to question the city and emu were not afforded the tax paying residents. Input by the tax paying residents were not afforded. The same thing is happening now. They are making this more public this time but are still not listening to us. I think the new facilities emu has built is great for the students and staff at emu. The only problem is they didn't buy these houses before they trashed peoples dreams. In my case I hope people can see I'm pissed off and not being sarcastic. I'm sure the developer that built the sub had to go thru procedures that emu didn't. I have been a resident of ypsi for 39 years. Owning a home was a great achievement in my life. Thanks to emu and the city its turned my dream of being a homeowner into a living hell. Once again emu and the city are showing very poor judgment. I am glad that you invested in our city and raised a family here. I wish many more graduates of emu would invest in our town. What they are doing here will turn this intersection into another oakwood and huron. it will trash our property values and render our properties an even more undesirable place to live in. please emu and city of ypsilanti no more ad hok fixes. emu should have purchased the two homes here on oakwood north of washtenaw in 1999 knowing what they had planned. Before someone like me came along and invested my life here next to the future main entrance to emu. I don't have a college degree so please excuse my writing skills.


Sun, Dec 12, 2010 : 6:10 p.m.

I apologize, Mr. Golder, and other area residents, for not being kinder. I used my "sarcastic humor" voice when I commented earlier. What I should have said is something more like: Isn't it wonderful to be part of a city that houses a growing University that, by that growth, might just lure businesses into the city? Businesses that will broaden the property tax base and slow the tax increase for homeowners? Perhaps it would have been kinder to say that I know how lovely your neighborhood is. I have friends who live there, and the tree-lined streets are truly beautiful in all seasons. I should have said, I'm so sorry that progress is upsetting to you. All change is not bad. More solutions should have been offered. It brings to mind my cousin's sadness - he was a farmer, raising pigs, in the country near Chelsea and had owned his farm for about 17 years. A developer bought the land to the east and built a couple of hundred new homes... "downwind" of the farm. Anyone who knows about pig farms knows they have their own particular... stench. The group of homeowners had more power than a single farmer and he was put out of business. Lost his "job." I asked the same rhetorical question then to those new homeowners... When you bought the house in the country subdivision, did you not think? (Or smell?) Did you not look around outside to see what bordered the subdivision? It shouldn't be surprizing then, that the big city and the huge university will "win" -get what they see as progress and safety - and the poor individual homeowners will "lose." @HNIC50 - I lived in the City of Ypsilanti for 20 years, attended EMU, getting my degree between having children and jobs. I spent too many hours of my life searching for parking spots after waiting on Washtenaw to turn the corner onto Oakwood, even after the structure was built. I have never been an EMU regent, nor will I benefit in any way from this "deal". The glory of "comments" is that any idiot can, indeed, comment. Don't you love free speech, misplaced as it is? Maybe making it easier to get onto campus by way of Oakwood at Huron River Drive would alleviate some of the traffic at the Washtenaw end of Oakwood. I'm all for putting a traffic circle there (and before you all jump on me about that, yes, I travel through two everyday they work fine except for those who won't follow the rules.) In an ideal world, all Walmarts, Universities, businesses, and pig farms would be in the country, and all the beautiful neighborhoods would be inside the city limits. Alas...

joe golder

Fri, Dec 10, 2010 : 9:32 a.m.

Where are the neighborhood associations help. The city classified the people on the corner here second class in 1999. Oh! we know there is low life deals being cut here and hopefully soon we will get to the bottom of it. Hey councilman murdock most of the students going to emu are commuters. They come from a 100 mile circle around emu. They have jobs, busy lives, and families. Maybe emu could drive around southern MI and pick the students up like public schools do. Maybe trains, planes who knows. You are so out of touch. Is 1000' Far enough away from the entrance to several walmarts. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at the big party thrown for the lawers and judges of washtenaw county at the presidents house a few months ago. There is agendas at work here. Unfortunately any homeowner rights here are not being followed. If there is such a thing. Leave it to emu and the city to restructure a intersection every 10 years. Oh this fix is not close to what needs to be done. I don't think they could plan a birthday party between the two of them. Certainly emu could not have gotten away with this without the help of the city and some of its citizens. Any law professionals out there willing to help us? The puppet council really screwed us this time.I know in my heart President Martin wants to do the right thing. I wouldn't want to go through life with something like this on my back. do the right thing Dr. Martin. Do the right thing City of ypsi.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 9:37 p.m.

I have experience working with city govenments. I am a business owner. And when a deal like this is passed it conjures up 'deals' and 'hook ups'...behind closed doors quid pro quo.I don't trust the process. There is usually selfish intent that does not benefit both. There are no concessions. City council, I hope we are not witnessing the formation of a Detroit 'like' govern' where members are on the take or worse, are not INVESTED in the city.....comments like 'did you know EMU was there' are displaced and idiotic. It is a weak and selfish platform to begin any debate. Either you are a fringe dweller, old alumnus that has benefited or a well healed Regent. Nevertheless, don't weigh in unless you have significant weight to bear on this topic that. No matter WHERE you live, expansion has no regard for residential...but somewhere, I promise you, someone got their way!


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 6:50 p.m.

This is such a disappointing move by the Ypsilanti City Council. My family are a few of the residents directly impacted by this decision made by Council on Tuesday. We have continued to experience the ever increasing traffic congestion since EMUs previous actions to make this corner the main entrance of EMU without any prior input from we residents! Who the hell do you think you are? I have seen my neighbor Joe Golder fight this growing problem for several years now, and I really thought that the Council and EMU would do the right thing for EVERYONE involved. There ARE other options for EMU to have resolved this traffic congestion that could have given all parties involved a win-win situation. But that was obviously never their intention... a win-win for everyone involved. During the last planning commission meeting we suggested reopening the entrance to EMU just to the west of McKenny Union. This request has come up multiple times with always very little response from EMU. For example, the road which currently goes through the parking lot could be modified into a multi-lane entrance and out the other side onto Oakwood. Another possible option was for EMU to purchase the northwest corner from the remaining residents there giving them a beautiful acre of property to move traffic through with landscaping that makes for an inviting entrance for incoming students. THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS... options that would move some of this traffic away from this intersection and thus help to maintain a residential frontage for our homes AND give students and faculty better access to EMU. THERE ARE ALWAYS OTHER OPTIONS! But instead, EMU wishes to continue with the same bogus plan and Council has approved it! It is disgraceful what our city council and EMU have done to us and our surrounding neighborhood. Our quality of life and our property values on this corner will continue to erode by evermore increasing and faster moving traffic with these new fixes. Why would a family want to stay here? So the homes currently owner occupied will continue to move toward rentals. We have seen what that has done to our city. Rental properties are rarely maintained as an owner occupied home is. And there are still currently owner occupied homes at the NOW main entrance to Easterns campus! One last point I want to make. This island you all want to put out in front of our house will greatly inhibit our ability to freely move in and out of our driveway. We will have not only 2 lanes of traffic coming from the west side, but now when the light changes, there will be 2 lanes of turning traffic coming at us from the north and a lane from the south! When exactly do we make our move to get in or out? We now often back out into the center lane to head west or north. We lost our ability to go south years ago when the no left turn was added. Now our ability to go west and north are being taken away. In the city council meeting Tuesday night, Mr. Wahl admitted that the ability to get in and out of our driveway WILL be more inhibited. This is acceptable city council?? My husband questioned Mr. Wahls use of the word safe. He said this would make our corner more safe for traffic and pedestrians. Will YOU want to stand on a little island in the middle of Washtenaw while cars race by in all directions? In conclusion, this is a huge mistake. As Mr. Golder so eloquently put it, shame on you City Council! You bite the hands that feed you! Had Council had the gumption to stand up and say no to this grant, EMU would have been forced to truly find better solutions to a problem they created that would serve not ONLY themselves but also the surrounding community!!!

joe golder

Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 3:24 p.m.

LC how many trains two? I know I have the greyhound bus station in ann arbor beat by 30x. 15' from my house. I have more semis and delivery vehicles than some small cities have 24/7 15' from my house. Hey council murdock if you really want to help get students on and off campus come over with a orange vest and direct traffic. That's one way to change council. Heck I have more buses turn next to my house Than the down town depot has coming thru there. what's next an airport for the prez and alumni to land. business is good and getting better at emu. share the wealth emu.

joe golder

Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 1:16 p.m.

wait think when I bought My home the library was being built. it was still pretty quiet. Now the traffic is equal to several walmarts 15' from my house. emu is open 24/7 all the businesses on washtenaw close at midnight. Its a zoning thing wait think. Why is your emu allowed to stay open all night. A cmaq grant being used to move the curb from 15' to 17' from my residential home what a waste of tax payer money. I'm sorry wait think whats your point. Who would have ever thought the university would move west and build 3/4 of a billion dollars in buildings, renovations, parking lots. Hey it was just a few years ago when emu couldn't give raises or find money to fix pray harold. The city and emu have proved time and time again their agendas are more important than the tax payers. This is so wrong. My neighbors and I still pray someone will come forward and advocate for us against the evil forces at work here. Hey Governor Snyder please help. Has anyone had 5 cars crash into your property. This project will make it worst. This is bad money spent it will make it more dangerous for the residents at the intersection.I have to turn into the main entrance of a major university stop quickly and turn across three lanes of traffic to enter my residential home. emu city of ypsi you are so pathetic.Is the collusion between the two of you conspiring? If the city and emu had done the right thing in 1999 and did proper studies and impact studies, public hearings we wouldn't be hear. Adding all the other things on the agenda tues. night sure did discourage some of the people involved in this from speaking or sticking around to question your responsibilities to the tax payers living on the corner. wait think. Considering the devastating results this will have here its a shame more people in the community didn't get involved. The tax payers on the corner have the high road here not emu or the city. Keeping traffic next to our homes and away from the streets to the west is so fair.

Garden Goddess

Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 9:02 a.m.

Of course Wait.think we considered where are home is located. We have lived in this community for over 17 years. Washtenaw has always been a major and busy street, EMU was there. Alternatives and planning needs to be considered by both EMU and the city to enhance EMU and it's surronding neighborhoods. We are what the families drive by or into when visiting the campus and surronding areas to determine if this is a place they may want to send their child. It is not a win when homes turn into run down housing rentals. Look around the city. We love our beautiful neighborhood and would hope that the city and EMU can listen to the residents of the community to maintain those that do exist.

Steve Pepple

Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 8:43 a.m.

The spelling of Band-Aid has been corrected. Thanks to the reader who pointed the error out.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 8:09 a.m.

I can't believe Council allowed a university to be built next to a bunch of houses. Disgusting. The next thing they'll do is allow a train to stop in quiet depot town.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 7:26 a.m.

I think it is important to have all interested parties voice their concerns about any road changes in their neighboorhood. I also find it amusing when homeowners feel those changes shouldn't affect them - whether it's noise polution, light polution, tax assesment, safety issues, etc. So, I'm curious, Area Homeowners, did you think it would never change? When you bought (or inherited) your house, did you not notice you have a great big neighbor called Eastern Michigan University? Originating in 1849, it's master plan did not extend to 2010 growth plans... probably. Were you really not aware that the little country lane called Washtenaw Avenue is a business route for an Interstate Highway and is one of only two main routes to EMU, not to mention the McAuley Health complex including St. Joe Hospital? I wouldn't doubt that the larger portion of people using the Oakwood/Washtenaw intersection it are not residents of the area. I am old enough to remember Washtenaw Ave as a two-lane, non-developed residential road between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. Did you really not research the tax base of Ypsilanti so you would know that, in a city with a large portion of it's land owned by tax-exempt churches and EMU and relatively few businesses, it is the homeowners property taxes that support city revenues? Do you understand how grants work - often providing funds for specific projects and not general improvements? What were the reasons that led you to choose to live in that truly lovely neighborhood? The former questions lead up to this one: Did you think?


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 9:45 p.m.

I think EMU should pony up for this project. Not just in cash, but in land as well. I feel sorry for anyone that lives on that intersection. They should open up the lot to incoming traffic like it used to be years ago. And then funnel traffic out through Oakwood. Adding lanes and lines by driveways will not fix the problem.

Garden Goddess

Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 8:56 p.m.

Great and who gets to pay the city taxes? Those of us in a neighborhood that is depreciating now even further. I would invite the lovely 7 to come to my yard and hold a council meeting, huh? oh I am sorry I can'thear you, the traffic you know. Perhaps EMU or the city can pay resident's to install new windows in our homes since the noise has driven us inside our homes, as well as the trash. Collegewood Resident, and yes I vote.