Township looks into adding new sidewalks, bypass lanes

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published December 18, 2013

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — In an effort to increase convenience and safety for pedestrians and motorists alike, township officials are moving forward with an engineering study that will examine the logistics of installing more residential sidewalks and bypass lanes along major roads.

“We’ve been talking about making these improvements for years,” said Township Clerk Michael Koehs. “Now, we want to take this idea out of the theoretical realm and bring it into reality.”

On Dec. 11, the Macomb Township Board of Trustees voted unanimously to move forward with a study by the engineering and consulting firm Giffels Webster. According to Township Engineer Jim Van Tiflin, the study will cost $30,500 and include the creation of a sidewalk master plan for the township, as well as determining its bypass lane needs.

“At this point, we’re requesting … to do a study of the entire township and figure out which areas we want to focus on first and break them down into yearly capital improvement programs,” he told the board. “We can then designate a certain amount of money for completion of these (sidewalk) gaps, probably starting in the areas around the schools, then going to the commercial areas, and then moving farther out to other residential areas.”

Van Tiflin explained that the first phase of the study will involve conducting an inventory of all existing sidewalks and walking/bicycle paths in the township to create a detailed map. This map will indicate not only the location of each section of sidewalk, but also its approximate width, the type of material that it’s made of and its overall condition in an attempt to provide better future connectivity.

The second phase, he said, will develop a capital improvement program for bridging any gaps between sidewalks. This will also help township officials create a priority list that will allow them to focus all available funds on specific projects, establish rough cost estimates and coordinate these projects with any future road construction plans.

Koehs pointed out that the township still has many sidewalks that are incomplete, so prioritizing those that are most essential will be a key step of this process.

“If you look at our sidewalks (from overhead) on a map, they just look like a bunch of dotted lines,” he said. “So what we’re trying to do now is connect all those dots by filling in the gaps.”

According to Koehs, constructing sidewalks near public schools will be the top priority in order to give students safe, consistent pathways where they can walk to and from school every day. The next priority will be connecting residential neighborhoods to popular business districts in order to make commuting without a car easier for local shoppers. After that, the township will look into adding more parks and recreation trails for walking and cycling.

The third phase of the Giffels Webster study will establish a detailed inventory of all major roads in the township without existing bypass lanes at commercial, industrial and residential intersections. The firm will then use this information to develop a bypass lane master plan for the township.

“We have several bypass lanes that were never constructed,” Van Tiflin said, “especially in the south end of the township, where we have some older developments. So what we want to do is get a good inventory of where these (locations) are and put together a priority list and some cost estimates so that we can then work with the (Macomb County Department of Roads). They will participate in the construction of these bypass lanes, but we need to be able to tell them which ones we want to do going forward.”

Koehs stressed that while bypass lanes may not initially seem as important as sidewalks, they are crucial to keeping traffic moving along the township’s many two-lane roads, especially during peak traffic hours.

“We want people to be able to drive around cars that are stopped in their lane without having to stop or slow down,” he said. “Just like with the sidewalks, we will get these particular areas identified, but then we have to set priorities for which ones we want to do first.”

Township officials are already prepared to implement some of these road and sidewalk improvements. In August, the board authorized engineers to prepare plans to connect the sidewalk in front of Fire Station No. 2 — located on the south side of 21 Mile Road between Garfield and Romeo Plank roads — with those leading to the subdivisions on either side. They also voted to construct a bypass lane directly in front of the fire station in order to provide better traffic flow along 21 Mile. Both projects are slated for 2014 and have a combined estimated cost of about $265,000.

Koehs said that he expects the Giffels Webster study to be completed in the next few months. Township officials are hoping to incorporate the firm’s findings into their 2014-15 budget, which will be put together in the spring and may include additional sidewalk and bypass lane projects.