The city of Berkley is resuming its evaluation of its Coolidge Highway restriping project following a yearlong delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on traffic patterns.

The city of Berkley is resuming its evaluation of its Coolidge Highway restriping project following a yearlong delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on traffic patterns.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Berkley resumes evaluation of Coolidge Highway restriping project

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 11, 2021


BERKLEY — In 2019, the city of Berkley began a restriping and lane reduction project on Coolidge Highway.

The project reduced the number of lanes on the roadway from four to two and added a middle turn lane, bike lanes and additional on-street parking. The aim of the restriping was to improve traffic, bring more attention to the downtown and decrease accidents.

The original plan for Berkley was to conduct a 24-month research process to evaluate whether the road diet achieved its desired effect. After a year, the city was going to determine, from the data it collected, whether it would continue on for another year or revert the road back to its original design.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, however, it brought the project to a halt because the city couldn’t properly collect the data it needed.

“The process was postponed when the schools were moved to virtual,” City Manager Matt Baumgarten said. “A big driver of the morning rush hour and the (3 p.m.) traffic is the schools. And so we knew if we were to try to take counts while schools were virtual, the data wouldn’t be as useful to us because it’s not applicable to the baseline studies that we did in 2019.”

Baumgarten also explained that, for most of last year, more businesses began shifting their employees to virtual as well, which meant less driving and traffic on Coolidge.

“At that point, we knew it didn’t make as much sense to try to capture data on traffic because it wouldn’t be applicable to what we would call a normal situation,” he said.

With local schools allowing in-person instruction once again, the city recently announced that it would be resuming its evaluation process of the roadway this month.

This process will include, according to Berkley’s website, the measurement of roadway capacity and daily volumes; the traffic volume on Kipling Avenue, Kenmore Road, Berkley Avenue and Beverly Boulevard; crash rate per mile; crash rate at individual intersections; vehicle speeds; and emergency vehicle movement.

The first year of the city’s evaluation, stated Baumgarten, was focused on functionality and safety. For the rest of 2021 and into next year, he said, they’ll be looking at the project’s effect on businesses and whether they see more foot traffic, and if the additional parking has benefited them too.

Berkley recognized that though it felt school traffic has normalized, it might be too early to begin the process again with workforce traffic still making a return. This is because Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an extension to work-from-home guidelines by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration that will be in effect through October.

“Our struggle with that is probably the same as the private sector has right now in figuring out … what their future is,” Baumgarten said. “We’re also trying to do the same predictions as well. So we’ve left the option available that we would retest this in six months, because that would coincide with what is right now stated to be the end of the MIOSHA work-from-home guidelines. … We’re likewise trying to be as upfront as possible and noting that we might have to do this again in six months to see what, if anything, has changed.”

Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer Finney believes the road diet has been successful so far. She said she’s heard positively from businesses about the project, but notes it’s too early in the process to determine whether the restriping will be permanent.

“I know a lot of the businesses are liking it,” she said. “It provides more parking spaces for them. So just in terms of the business community and just talking with different residents and people who have been in the downtown has been very successful. Obviously with the numbers, we can’t fully decide anything until we see the full evaluation, but so far we’re hopeful that it’ll be favorable so we can keep it.”