Orchard Lake Road reconstruction slated for summer

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 30, 2017

 Jeff O’Brien, Road Commission for Oakland County design engineer, talks to Cathie Creely, a property manager for two office buildings on Orchard Lake Road. Creely said she attended to receive updates on what to tell her tenants to expect. She also wanted to be sure that she would have good access to her driveway.

Jeff O’Brien, Road Commission for Oakland County design engineer, talks to Cathie Creely, a property manager for two office buildings on Orchard Lake Road. Creely said she attended to receive updates on what to tell her tenants to expect. She also wanted to be sure that she would have good access to her driveway.

Photo by Donna Agusti

WEST BLOOMFIELD/ORCHARD LAKE — The Road Commission for Oakland County hosted an informational meeting March 28 to let people know about changes coming to Orchard Lake Road in June.

The informational event at Orchard Lake Middle School explored the reconstruction of Orchard Lake Road, between Northwestern Highway and Maple Road, in West Bloomfield Township.

The Oakland County-owned road will receive a roughly $7.2 million facelift funded by federal and local dollars, according to a press release. 

The local funding is shared jointly by the Road Commission and West Bloomfield Township, the release states. The project, expected to begin June 12 and end in late November, includes the reconstruction of Orchard Lake Road, reducing the current five-lane road to a four-lane, concrete boulevard with a grassy median. The project will also remove the service drive on the east side of Orchard Lake Road, add 8-foot-wide pedestrian paths on both sides of the road, fix drainage issues, and make the pedestrian crosswalks Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, according to the release.

Road Commission Design Engineer Jeff O’Brien said he wants attendees to learn how the timing of the project will impact the traffic during construction and “what the final product will look like.” 

“There (has) really just been general comments revolving around construction, how the project will be staged and built … and how it will impact traffic,” O’Brien said during the event.

O’Brien added that the project, in its “simplest form,” will be conducted with one lane open in each direction, including the use of a center left-turn lane.

“We will build, essentially, one half of the road and move that traffic onto the new pavement and build the other half of the road,” O’Brien said during the event.

According to the release, Powers Road will also be closed for a short time — the date had yet to be announced at press time — at Orchard Lake Road during the time of construction to allow the intersection to be realigned.

The detour for Powers Road traffic will be Daly Road to Maple Road to Orchard Lake Road and the reverse, according to the release.   

The Orchard Lake Road reconstruction is part of the Northwestern Connector Project geared to enhance traffic flow where Northwestern Highway ends at Orchard Lake Road, according to the release.

The Northwestern Connector Project goes back to the 1950s, when the state of Michigan declared a plan to build Northwestern Highway to connect Oakland County to Fenton. The Road Commission contributed several million dollars in 1957 to pay for the highway that was never completed, according to Craig Bryson, public information officer for the Road Commission. 

O’Brien said that about 30-40 people attended the meeting March 28, and there have been meetings on this project in the past.

O’Brien said that about 48,000 drivers per day will be impacted by the construction.

“Essentially, they are coming off of Northwestern,” he said, adding that traffic could be coming up or traversing to Northwestern Highway and “dispersing” throughout the township. “There is also a heavy commercialized corridor, so that generates traffic as well,” he said.

“I think folks pretty much understood more or less the scope of the project,” he said, adding that more details were provided regarding project dates. “The project is not new by any stretch of the imagination.”

Michael Zeldes, manager of Levin Beauty Supply in West Bloomfield — whose business is in the heart of the construction zone — said that when he imagines Orchard Lake Road, it looks the same.

“Only thing I would have to say about it is it is a great idea, but really no need for it,” said Zeldes, who was at the event March 28. “Orchard Lake is fine the way it is; they just redid it not too long ago.”

Zeldes, whose business is located at 6716 Orchard Lake Road, in a plaza, said that the business took a hit during the economic downturn several years back, and the new road reconstruction is “just another dagger.”

“All access to our shopping center is pretty much going to be shut off,” he said of the construction on Orchard Lake Road and Maple Road.

He added that he doesn’t see how adding a boulevard will add to the road.

“It might look nice, but (it will) not add anything,” Zeldes said, adding that “many other things” could be fixed. “It is going to be a mess. Thank God it is going to be done in six months.”

Lawrence Brown, a former township trustee, said during a recent phone interview that he was involved in township roads for the eight years he was on the township board.

He was also heavily involved in the roads back in the 1990s, when he was on the Planning Commission, and he said that the reconstruction is a plus.

“This will be an absolute positive for the community,” he said of the reconstruction. “It will make Orchard Lake Road much safer to not only drive, but to be able to make their turns, because it will be a boulevard; there has been many accidents on this.”

He added that although the project will impact traffic, there will still be two-way traffic on Orchard Lake Road for people to visit stores.

“Stores will still have ways for people to come, but nobody likes construction,” he said, adding that a lot of times people say that “the roads are terrible,” but when it comes time to fix them, people are up in arms.

“They say they can’t believe they are making this mess. ... You got to take the good with the bad. That is the way it works,” he said.

Brown, who was on a former township road committee with several other residents, said that while the project will “beautify the area,” the negative side is that the road has to be torn up for a number of months.

“(It will) be about five to six months of inconvenience, but once it is all done, it will be the end of that,” he said.

Brown said that another Road Commission project is underway to fix up 1.8 miles of Maple Road, widening the road between Orchard Lake Road and Farmington Road this year. The two-part project began last year. The road will only be accessible to westbound traffic. 

Brown said that there have been some “minor setbacks” for the portion between Drake and Haggerty due to environmental issues pertaining to a drainage system.

“It has been kind of stalled for some problems,” he said, adding that the project will be completed next year.

O’Brien said he is looking on the bright side of the project.

“We’re just looking forward to a successful project,” O’Brien said.

For more information, go to www.nwconnector.com.