City plans for ‘unique destination’ on Auburn Road

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published December 12, 2017

 Auburn Road, at Culbertson Avenue, was covered in snow the  morning of Dec. 12.

Auburn Road, at Culbertson Avenue, was covered in snow the morning of Dec. 12.

Photo by Mary Beth Almond

ROCHESTER HILLS — An area of the city that has seen little change in decades is the subject of a new study.

The Auburn Road engineering report examines a proposed reconstruction of Auburn Road, between Culbertson and Dequindre roads.

“We are trying to improve the safety, the desirability, the quality of life, the property values,” Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said during a Dec. 4 presentation to the City Council. “Some things that haven’t happened in that part of our town — almost exclusionary to the rest of our town. We are really the first administration and council to (address) that in a long, long time.”

Plans include strengthening the district as a unique destination, calming traffic and improving safety, creating a more walkable environment, encouraging development opportunities, and improving accessibility.

The engineering study, created by LSL Planning, was finalized after well-received property owner meetings that addressed concerns that were implemented into the design, said Paul Davis, Rochester Hills engineering director. Last January, the City Council approved a $75,000 project budget for the study, paid for with budgeted funds.

The study addresses elements designed to promote slower traffic speeds, alternative access and parking for commercial properties, and roundabouts — along with improved rear alleys, a stand-alone median island, on-street parallel parking and side street parking improvements.

“A major goal of the project is to make it pedestrian friendly,” Davis said.

Project costs have been estimated at $7 million. Potential funding sources would include state grants and transportation funds, along with $3 million from the city’s general fund that is marked for local and major roads, the tree fund and the safety path fund.

“There are a number of different options to achieve the funding goals for the project,” Davis said. A timeline identifies a 2019 construction season.

By a 6-1 vote, the Rochester Hills City Council approved the plan. Councilwoman Stephanie Morita voted against approval. Morita said she opposes using city general funds for the project.  

“I look at that money as for emergencies, and this is not an emergency situation,” Morita said. “I want this project to happen. It will really improve quality of life for residents that live in that area. But I want it to be planned and I want it to be done as safely as possible.”

Barnett disagreed.

“This is why we collect taxes — to invest back in our community,” he said. “We think we are spending money in an appropriate fashion on items that align with council’s No. 1 and No. 2 goals — infrastructure and public safety.”

“We are going to have a $7 million project and dip in for only $3 million. I’m fine with that,” Councilwoman Susan Bowyer said. “When you look at this project — 10 years ago, it tried and it failed. I don’t want to stop or just not go forward because we are worried about dropping the general fund.”

“We want to do this right; it has started and stopped several times in (the) past,” Barnett said.  “We’ve got lots of work to do. This allows us to march forward with an open mind.”