Franklin Road residents work for change as new high school nears

By: Robin Ruehlen | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published September 19, 2012

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — With construction of the newly consolidated Bloomfield Hills High School looming in 2013, Franklin Road residents are working to improve traffic and safety conditions along the scenic route.

Homeowner Charles Soberman said his concerns began two years ago, well before the school merger was approved.

“Some of us met with the district’s traffic engineer and expressed our concerns about the consolidation in terms of traffic on Franklin Road,” Soberman said.

“This spring, when the final site plans were released, it seemed our concerns were ignored — they certainly did not address them specifically.”

Among them is the 40 mph speed limit on the two-lane road, which Soberman said he believes is too fast and could cause problems with young drivers.

“A car was totaled in front of my home last winter, and several cars have ended up on lawns of my neighbors, and those at the corner of Hickory Grove and Franklin,” he said.

“In the morning there are always pileups at Long Lake and Franklin, and at Hickory Grove turning left onto Franklin. These interfere with our ability to enter and exit our driveways. We worry about kids talking on their cellphones driving their parents’ powerful cars on Franklin Road going south and flooring it to get through the yellow light.”

Soberman said he is also concerned about the grade difference between Franklin Road and the entrance to the high school parking lot.

“Cars will enter and immediately go down a hill, which would make it unsafe in the winter,” he said.

“We would also would like to know what environmental studies have been done as far as salting school parking lots in the winter, and possible runoff into the lakes.”

The 40 or so homeowners met for the first time several weeks ago with Bloomfield Hills Schools Superintendent Rob Glass and subsequently formed a committee of volunteers to enter into talks with the school district. On Sept. 11, the Franklin Road homeowners committee met again with Glass, Board of Education member Mark Bank, Bloomfield Township Transportation Engineer Mike Labadie, Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie and a number of representatives from the BHS design and build team.

Savoie said the meetings have helped narrow the list of changes Franklin Road residents would like to see, as well as create more realistic expectations.

“I had to tell them that there are a lot things that will never happen — such as a traffic light at Club Drive and Franklin. The county will never agree to that. Instead, we need to see if we can get that list down to five or six items, and then we can band together and approach the county together on those,” he said.

After identifying those items, Savoie said, the next step would likely involve meeting individually with county road commissioners.

“It’s going to take a few more meetings, but we started taking it from 30,000-foot level and brought it down to ground level,” he said.

Soberman said he was pleased with the results of the Sept. 11 meeting.

“Everyone seems very interested in working with us to our mutual benefit,” he said.

“The district agreed to provide the committee with a number of documents he requested regarding the planning of the school and proposed new entrance, and they agreed to continue discussions to jointly get controls placed on Franklin Road, such as reducing the speed limit, eliminating passing and possibly some others.”

The group has already scheduled a tentative third meeting in several weeks “after all of us have a chance to do our homework,” Soberman said.

“If we got everything we wanted, we would want more controls on Franklin Road. As an example, reducing the speed limit, eliminating passing, putting a four-way stop at Hickory Grove and possibly a no-left-turn sign from 7-9 a.m. at Hickory Grove and Franklin,” he said.

“Overall, we want to be good neighbors and have safety for all users of Franklin Road, and we’d like it to keep the feel of a scenic country road that it has now. Telegraph Road is less than 100 yards away, and that should be the route of choice for people wishing to travel at high speeds.”