Orchard Lake Road meeting to highlight potential improvement projects

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published April 23, 2014

FARMINGTON HILLS — Farmington Hills city officials plan to get the word out about potential changes coming to Orchard Lake Road in the next decade during a public meeting April 23.

In partnership with the Road Commission for Oakland County, the informational meeting  — geared toward residents, property and business owners — will discuss the possible improvements of the Oakland County-owned road 4-7 p.m. at Farmington Hills City Hall, 31555 W. 11 Mile Road.

Public Services Director Gary Mekjian told C & G Newspapers that some topics up for discussion include environmental assessments and preliminary engineering for the road.

He said that several years ago, the county asked for federal funding to do the environmental assessments and preliminary engineering for Orchard Lake Road between 13 and 14 Mile.

In late 2012, the federal funding became available to perform the environmental assessment and preliminary engineering, and Farmington Hills was given permission to take the lead on the project on behalf of the RCOC, he said.

“That was really the beginning of the project, and essentially, what we are doing is we’re trying to take a look at the corridor between 13 and 14 Mile for a couple of reasons,” Mekjian said.

Some of the reasons include the ability to move traffic capacity; the attempt to improve safety for vehicular traffic and for pedestrians; and economic development for the corridor.

“Essentially, doing our best to address the social, environmental and financial aspects of the proposed improvements,” he said.

Before any changes could be made, the city has to complete an environment assessment of the corridor.

The reconstructed section of Orchard Lake Road may feature two through-lanes in each direction, a narrow median, and three roundabouts between 13 and 14 Mile roads, according to a press release.

“That is really where we are at this point, so we’ve looked through and considered a couple different alternatives,” he said.

Some options to change Orchard Lake include leaving the road as-is and reconstruct it; create a wide-median boulevard — similar to the 12 Mile corridor between Farmington Road and Haggerty Road; or implement newer traffic safety techniques such as roundabouts, and try to narrow down the road, Mekjian said.

The end goal is try to create a better road, with minimal impacts to adjacent property owners and residents, resulting in an overall lower cost project.

Mekjian said depending on which changes Orchard Lake Road undergoes, federal funding, appropriated through the Federal Transportation Bill, would pay for 80 percent; the remaining 20 percent would be split between the city and the RCOC. The Oakland County Board of Road Commissioners, and the city, would also approve any changes to Orchard Lake Road.

Mekjian said if the city is lucky, construction would potentially begin in the early part of the next decade.

Mekjian said this is a long-phase project. Once the environmental assessment is submitted to the federal government, the next step is a preliminary engineering and designing stage, right-of-way acquisition, and final design and construction.

Traffic Engineer Mark Saksewski said because of some trouble areas along Orchard Lake, a boulevard option seemed to make an improvement in those situations.

“We look at the capacity of the corridor; we look at computer-generated models with the roundabout different types of boulevards and put into place,” Saksewski said. “If you increase capacity and reduce congestion, you are also improving environmental emissions.”

Mekjian said he’s had several meetings with some of the property owners about potential changes on Orchard Lake, and he hopes to further the discussion at the meeting.

“This meeting is really an opportunity for the property owners and business owners to really come out and take a look at what we think is a really good alternative,” he said.

Project displays will be available with City and RCOC staff.

For more information, contact the city Engineering Division at (248) 871-2560.