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Clawson talks pedestrian-friendly upgrades downtown

Crossing islands, LED crossing lights among items discussed

February 20, 2013

» click to enlarge «
Clawson resident Katie Van Buren walks down Main Street, near 14 Mile, Feb. 14. She said she felt the downtown area is already pretty pedestrian-friendly.

CLAWSON — It’s still early in the planning stages, but pedestrians in the downtown area may have an easier time getting around if a proposed plan sticks.

Downtown Development Association Director Joan Horton and The Greenway Collaborative President Norm Cox presented the current plan to the Clawson City Council Feb. 5, following several gatherings with residents and city staff in August 2012.

The proposal, which will need to secure funding and council approval before it moves forward, includes crossing islands, LED rapid-flashing lights on pedestrian crossing signs and pedestrian hybrid beacons at crosswalks suggested for every 400-500 feet downtown. Pedestrian hybrid beacons activate lights to stop traffic while a pedestrian uses a crosswalk.

“This is a need we identified, along with the Main Street program, as an area that needed attention if we want economic development to continue in the downtown,” Horton told the council. “It’s quality of life. It’s what our residents want and what residents looking to move into town want.”

Among the seven areas suggested for road crossing improvements, five are on 14 Mile and two are on Main Street. The intersections receiving attention include 14 Mile and Washington, 14 Mile and Church Avenue, 14 Mile and Florence/Pare, 14 Mile at Bellevue Avenue, Main at Bowers and Main at Jefferson. Other improvements are proposed for 14 Mile between Washington and Main, as well as 14 Mile between Church and Renshaw.

“There will have to be some education of, ‘What is this,’” Cox said. “It’s kind of like when we started doing roundabouts a few years ago. People were like, ‘What is this?’ and we had to do some public outreach. This will be the same way, but you will end up with a safer situation with these crossings islands and signals.”

Also on the plan is an information kiosk at 14 Mile and Main, more bicycle parking areas and 14- to 16-foot-long planters that not only make the downtown area greener, but double as seating. Small tables cemented in place between the planters were also proposed. The pedestrian upgrades would take away five parking spots from the entire downtown area.

The council had a mixed reaction to different parts of the project.

“I love the idea of pedestrian crossings,” Mayor Penny Luebs said. “This one is ambitious with seven crossings in an eight-block area.”

The biggest intersection of discussion was 14 Mile and Washington, being one often used by students headed home from Clawson High School and Clawson Middle School.

“Stopping the traffic again, I have a concern,” Councilman Tom Palmer said. “And I have a huge concern with stopping the left-hand turns at Washington. I don’t like that idea at all.”

The proposed crossing island would prevent both left turns off Washington and through traffic on Washington at 14 Mile.

“The left turns are only really restricted at Washington Street, where you’re turning left out of that street there,” Cox said. “I think you’ll find there won’t be a rash of new crashes with this. We don’t want to make it worse.”

Before anything can go forward, the DDA needs to secure funding and the city is also looking to expand the plan beyond the downtown area.

Horton said the price tag for the project is about $500,000, about 80 percent of which she is hoping will be paid for through grants, with the remainder coming out of the DDA budget or another to-be-determined source.

“We’ll have to look at the possibility of funding and, if there is a match, we’ll have to budget for that,” City Manager Mark Pollack said.

To view the discussion and the proposal, visit

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