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February 5, 2014

Officials debate Maple Road light

By Cari DeLamielleure-Scott
C & G Staff Writer

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Officials debate Maple Road light
With minimal lights along Maple Road, high traffic flow is causing issues for drivers turning onto Maple Road from the surrounding subdivisions.

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Leslie Chudnow, a West Bloomfield resident, is speeding to improve safety and traffic flow along Maple Road between Orchard Lake and Middlebelt roads.

Chudnow is a 10-year resident of the Deerfield Village subdivision and has lived in West Bloomfield since 1965.

“When we first moved in, I found that it was almost impossible to make a left turn onto Maple Road safely out of Deerfield sub or Old Maple Farm sub. Your only chance of getting out was to exit via Heather Heath, just west of the traffic light in front of Ealy Elementary,” Chudnow said in an email.

Approximately nine years ago, Chudnow said, she contacted the Oakland County Road Commission, requesting that “do not block intersection” signs be placed on either side of Heather Heath Lane, where the former Ealy Elementary traffic light hangs, because of traffic congestion. The Road Commission installed the signs; however, Chudnow said that eastbound drivers failed to observe the signs when the Ealy light was red, blocking the egress onto Maple Road.

Chudnow’s daughter, 16-years-old at the time, recorded drivers blocking the intersection and posted the video to YouTube.

When the Ealy light was fully functioning, it slowed traffic down enough, Chudnow said.

Ealy Elementary closed its doors last year, and the Road Commission changed the traffic light, which is paid for equally by the school district, the township and the commission, from fully functioning to a flashing yellow.

The school district was placed on a one-year light hiatus while they determine if the district will use or sell the Ealy building.

“Our board is evaluating the Ealy options and will make their decision by the end of the school year, in June,” Pam Zajac, public relations and marketing coordinator for the school district, said in an email. “If we no longer need the Ealy building, we will no longer need the light. We are paying the maintenance on the light now.”

If the district sells Ealy, it will no longer be responsible for the light, Zajac added.

“A byproduct of this yellow blinking light is that it is also very dangerous to make a left turn out from the Orchard Mall onto Maple due to the fact that the traffic never slows up,” Chudnow wrote in her email. “Thousands of homes up and down Maple are affected by this nonfunctioning light.”

Chudnow said she contacted the Road Commission last spring and consulted with Township Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste, who, according to Chudnow, has been receptive and understanding of the issue. Following negotiations with the Road Commission, a study was conducted in October and distributed to the township Jan. 8.

The report recommends removing the Ealy Elementary light and installing another light in front of Heather Heath Lane on Maple Road. The Road Commission also requested the township split the $184,000 installation cost with the commission.

The Township Board of Trustees, flabbergasted at the cost, discussed the traffic signal installation at a Jan. 13 meeting and suggested Chudnow attend a public Road Commission meeting.

Trustee Lawrence Brown questioned why, with the Ealy Elementary light already placed, the Road Commission couldn’t make it a fully functioning light instead of flashing, but Economou Ureste explained that the study indicates that the light remain flashing.

“Why is this not the responsibility of the Road Commission? Are they not in the business of conducting traffic safety?” Clerk Catherine Shaughnessy said at the meeting.

Trustee Diane Rosenfeld Swimmer expressed that, even though Ealy Elementary is closed, students are now bused from the nearby neighborhoods, and the high volume of traffic is posing a safety issue for the buses.

Craig Bryson, public information officer for the Road Commission, said that the cost of traffic lights depends on location and who the light serves. Though negotiations are currently taking place between the township and the Road Commission, Bryson said that, as it stands, if the school district sells Ealy Elementary, there is no warrant for a light at the location.

There is no difference, with funding traffic lights, between a city and township covering partial costs of traffic lights. Bryson said it is standard practice across Oakland County to split the cost between municipalities and the commission.

Bryson said that, according to participation agreements, West Bloomfield Township pays for maintenance at the following electrical devices:

• Orchard Lake Road and Nicholas Drive (Orchard Lake Middle School), split between the township, the school district and the Road Commission.

• Maple Road and Ealy Elementary,  split between the township, the school district and the Road Commission.

• Walnut Lake and Shaun/Sheiko Elementary,  split between the township, the school district and the Road Commission.

• Orchard Lake and Tri-City Fire Station, 100 percent West Bloomfield Township.

• Walnut Lake Road and West Bloomfield Civic Center Drive, 100 percent West Bloomfield Township.

“People do not realize, and I didn’t realize, how expensive putting up a light is. … Let’s get the (Ealy) light functioning, and let’s get the problem solved,” Chudnow said in an interview.

Chudnow and Economou Ureste will be attending the Road Commission meeting at 9 a.m. Feb. 6. The building is located at 31001 Lahser Road in Beverly Hills. The meeting is open to the public.

Chudnow said she wants to get the word out about the upcoming meeting and, more importantly, to notify all affected residents so they may voice their opinions to the Road Commission and West Bloomfield Township.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Cari DeLamielleure-Scott at cdelamielleure@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1093.