With the removal of a traffic lane, the crosswalks in Ferndale, such as the one at Nine Mile Road and Woodward Avenue, would be significantly shorter for pedestrians.

With the removal of a traffic lane, the crosswalks in Ferndale, such as the one at Nine Mile Road and Woodward Avenue, would be significantly shorter for pedestrians.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

SEMCOG grants more than $1 million in funding for Woodward Moves project

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 26, 2022


FERNDALE/PLEASANT RIDGE — A project designed to overhaul and significantly change Woodward Avenue received more than $1 million in funding.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments has awarded $1.17 million in grant funding toward the Woodward Moves Complete Streets project, which will be used to, among other changes, remove a lane on the northbound and southbound sides of Woodward Avenue between Interstate 696 and Eight Mile roads.

The project, a collaboration between the cities of Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge, as well as SEMCOG and the Michigan Department of Transportation, also will include “targeted improvements to alleyways and sidewalks, shorter pedestrian crossings, parking-protected bike lanes, improved visibility at intersections, and new (Americans with Disabilities Act) ramps,” a press release states.

In addition to SEMCOG’s $1.17 million Transportation Alternatives Program grant funding, MDOT also is contributing the same amount, along with Ferndale’s $1.23 million and Pleasant Ridge’s $140,000.

“We are always trying to ensure that our roadways work for all users. So those that drive, those that take transit, those that walk, those that bike or any other means, whether that’s rolling or scooting, that our roads and our corridors meet their needs,” SEMCOG Planning Director Kevin Vittraino said. “We’re trying to determine, within the region, where are there corridors that can support multiple modes of transportation.”

In both Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge, Vittraino said, there’s been an uptick in residents both wanting and encouraging safe infrastructure for them to walk and bike, and SEMCOG felt like this was an opportunity for them to put funding into one of the region’s core corridors that could help connect two of their downtowns, Detroit and Pontiac.

“This Woodward area in Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, and as it moves further north into Royal Oak, really does have some of the highest walking and biking in the region,” he said. “A project like this really can help assist and provide … safe access and safe connectivity for people to get to the locations that they most desire.”

Pleasant Ridge’s role in the project originally was slated to be much bigger, but design hurdles with the I-696 underpass wouldn’t allow the city to implement on-street protected cycle tracks along roughly a third of its Woodward frontage.

City Manager James Breuckman said there might be a cycle track for a couple of blocks on Woodward, but there won’t be a reduction in lanes from four to three in its part of the roadway.

“The changes in Pleasant Ridge are much more limited than the ones that are being proposed in Ferndale,” he said. “The goal is to provide a designated bicycle route all the way from Eight Mile to 696. In Pleasant Ridge, that might be happening not on Woodward in many places, but we’re still working through the design process to finalize that.”

According to Ferndale Mayor Melanie Piana, the next step in the process is MDOT reviewing the final designs of the project with the community, which she believes will happen in March. The targeted start date is September, sometime after the Woodward Dream Cruise, which would include basic infrastructure improvements, but the bulk of the repaving would happen in 2023.

Piana said she’s really excited that MDOT and SEMCOG saw the opportunity to make safety improvements on Woodward for both Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge.

“There are challenges for safety along the entirety of Woodward and all the other communities,” she said. “That is just happening to be repaving our part of Woodward and we’re leveraging … opportunity to make safety improvements.”

One of the upcoming design elements on Woodward is the reduction of travel lanes from four to three. This also would reduce the distance between both sides of the road at the crosswalk.

Vittraino said crossing is one aspect of pedestrian safety they look for in projects. Piana also added that the streets are being rebalanced to offer more safety for people biking and walking. 

“We’re gaining a lane for dedicated traveling … regular bikes, e-bikes, scooters, motorized wheelchairs,” she said. “How people get around is really changing and I’m really excited that we’re able to offer some more options, you know, another way of safely getting around, but also solving these safety challenges with sightline visibilities for drivers turning from side streets onto Woodward. 

“Getting across Woodward on our existing crosswalks has been a complaint for over 15 years — that it feels unsafe and uncomfortable — and so … this project is going to be solving, taking those steps in the right direction to add some safety features that the residents have really been asking for in terms of solutions,” she continued.