The city of Ferndale is moving along with its plans for a road diet on Woodward Avenue. This conceptual image shows what the final product of the diet could look like after its completion, which is projected for 2022.

The city of Ferndale is moving along with its plans for a road diet on Woodward Avenue. This conceptual image shows what the final product of the diet could look like after its completion, which is projected for 2022.

Image provided by the city of Ferndale

Ferndale takes next step in Woodward Avenue road diet

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published September 22, 2021


FERNDALE — The city of Ferndale has taken its next step for a road diet on Woodward Avenue.

At its Sept. 13 meeting, the City Council approved a revised resolution of support for the road diet on Woodward for the Michigan Department of Transportation. The approval was needed for Ferndale to apply for a Transportation Alternatives Program grant to help fund the project.

The project consists of removing a lane on the northbound and southbound sides of Woodward Avenue between 10 Mile and Eight Mile roads and replacing them with bike lanes and parking as a buffer. The amended design cost for Ferndale currently is $1,298,567.

Planning Manager Justin Lyons detailed the project to council in a presentation during the meeting. He listed the local priorities for the road diet as downtown safety and accessibility — to increase safety on Woodward for vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders. He also explained MDOT’s priorities as resurfacing Woodward in 2022 as a maintenance project, curb-to-curb only, excluding sidewalk improvements. The state would also fund and manage basic work like standard asphalt milling and ADA modifications.

In addition to the lane reductions and separated bike lanes, the road diet would create shorter pedestrian crossing distance at intersections, reducing each side of Woodward by 8 to 10 feet, and spot improvements for transit stops and sidewalks.

The next step in the process will take Ferndale into October with a request to MDOT. In November, MDOT will consider the TAP grant, while the City Council will consider the final budget and finalize construction plans. Through December and January 2022, MDOT will decide on a bid award, and community engagement meetings will be held for people to learn about construction staging, timelines and overall project details. Finally, the project will undergo construction from April through November next year.

The council approved a resolution earlier this year for an older concept presented by Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge, whose portion of Woodward also has been considered in the project.

According to city documents, MDOT evaluated the original traffic study completed by the cities and determined in June that portions of the concept design would need to be redesigned to meet MDOT’s standards for “level of service,” which measures automobile traffic delay.

“MDOT determined that transitional areas near bridges, northbound/southbound Woodward Avenue at Oakland Park/Sylvan in Pleasant Ridge and northbound at 8 Mile, would operate below the State’s minimum threshold for automobile traffic delay,” the documents state.

In a letter dated Sept. 9 to Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge City Manager James Breuckman said the cities have known that the Interstate 696 underpass and Eight Mile Road bridge are significant design hurdles, and they were informed that MDOT would not approve a reduction in travel lanes for a portion of Pleasant Ridge due to design issues related to the underpass.

“This will prevent us from implementing on-street protected cycle tracks along roughly one-third of our Woodward frontage in Pleasant Ridge,” Breuckman stated. “We will adjust our plans to provide off-street bicycle infrastructure where we cannot implement it on Woodward in Pleasant Ridge, consistent with the original intent of the project.”

Lyons stated during the meeting that, with minor design changes, the project could move forward, and they were able to work with MDOT to find some design changes that could work. He elaborated to the Woodward Talk that the Pleasant Ridge portion still is in the project, but that it wouldn’t be a complete road diet on its section of the roadway.

“It’s just that a certain portion of their section won’t have the on-street bike lanes. It won’t be a formal road diet, but they’re still in the project,” he said.

“The key revision point is that the majority of this whole project is still intact,” he said. “So 87% of the Woodward frontage still will have a road diet from 10 Mile to Eight Mile. We think that’s a big win.”

Many residents came to the meeting to speak on the project, as it has been a big talking point in the city for a number of years.

Quinn Zeagler stated that when she was searching for a home in Michigan, the most important factor she considered was multimodal access and how she wanted to be able to walk, bike and take the bus to work. She supported the road diet because she felt multimodal improvements have to start somewhere.

“I’m looking forward to being able to bike to work again,” she said. “I’m looking forward to feeling safe crossing Woodward and walking alongside Woodward. I’m looking forward to transit improvements in this corridor and, most of all, I’m looking forward to a Woodward Avenue that is good for all people, not just people who drive.”

Raymond Crucet shared his concerns on the road diet. He stated that he took part in a study that claimed that a significant amount of CO2 might be generated each year from the exclusion process, where basically people choose alternate routes when there’s congestion, and that narrowing Nine Mile Road has produced a significant amount of east and west residential cut-through traffic to warrant speed bumps. He felt a diet on Woodward would result in the same issues.

“You mentioned that you wanted Woodward to be a safer place for pedestrians and for bikers. Presently, the sidewalks are in horrible shape. It’s not safe for people in wheelchairs or bicycles or even walking, for that matter,” he said. “There’s almost no police presence along Woodward. There’s no traffic enforcement. I’ve witnessed, in the last seven days, drag racing 100 miles an hour down Woodward and 4x4s pulling wheelies down Woodward. It doesn’t appear safe, and it doesn’t appear that we are making best efforts for it to be safe at present.”

The council voted unanimously for the resolution’s approval, and each member shared their thoughts on the project. Councilwoman Kat Bruner James felt bike lanes had been perceived as the emphasis of this project when the emphasis really is about traffic calming, safer crossings, safer intersections, and accessibility for people who use mobility devices and public transit.

“I echo the sentiments of all of the residents who have expressed a desire for wider, better sidewalks,” she said. “That is absolutely a goal that we cannot accomplish without reducing the number of lanes.”

Mayor Melanie Piana said Woodward was designed for people to pass through quickly on the way to somewhere else, and that hurts the downtown and business community.

“I’ve always been upfront about my intentions and goals and how I’ve supported this project, and I really hope MDOT and the state figure out that our project is innovative and forward-thinking and helps the state reduce its carbon footprint by making it easier to travel in other ways than cars,” Piana said.