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 The city of Berkley is considering changing a 1-mile stretch of Coolidge Highway to reduce northbound and southbound lanes to one each while adding a continuous left turn lane and bike lanes to the road.

The city of Berkley is considering changing a 1-mile stretch of Coolidge Highway to reduce northbound and southbound lanes to one each while adding a continuous left turn lane and bike lanes to the road.

Photo by Mike Koury

Berkley eyes major lane change reduction on Coolidge

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published September 26, 2018

BERKLEY — A 1-mile stretch of Coolidge Highway could see a major change next year.

The Berkley City Council currently is discussing a proposal to add a continuous left turn lane on Coolidge from 11 Mile to 12 Mile roads, citing an effort to make the road friendly for drivers, people on the sidewalk and cyclists.

Currently, Coolidge has two lanes each going north and south, with on-street parking on both sides of the road.  The road’s current periodic left turn lanes shift the travel lanes outward, and there is no on-street parking in those areas. Beyond the left turn lanes, the travel lanes swerve back in and the on-street parking resumes.

The proposed change would reduce the northbound and southbound lanes to one each, add a continuous left turn lane in the center of the road, and add bike lanes between the travel lanes and on-street parking, City Manager Matt Baumgarten said.

Mayor Dan Terbrack said Coolidge has more of a distant feel in comparison to other downtowns and even 12 Mile, and city officials want the street to be just as much of a destination.

“We found that people just start flying (down) Coolidge,” he said. “They’re speeding down Coolidge, and they’re not noticing any of the things, the businesses, the buildings, opportunities that are up and down Coolidge. 

“When we shut down Coolidge this year for the (Street) Art Fest — one of the first times that I can recall ever, actually, Coolidge was the road that was closed, as opposed to 12 Mile — when we had that event and we had people come and walk around Coolidge, they were like, ‘I didn’t know half of these businesses were here because I’m usually just down Coolidge and I don’t even think about it.’”

While there were some safety concerns with making the change, city officials said the Berkley Public Safety Department told them a continuous center lane actually would be helpful in reducing accidents on Coolidge.

“One of the reasons why we project such a substantial decrease in crash volumes is most of our crashes now come from rear-end accidents or side-swipe accidents because of the way that the current configuration sort of ebbs and flows with the partial introduction of turn lanes,” Baumgarten said.

Because there isn’t a continuous dedicated turn lane at the moment, Baumgarten said, traffic can come to an instant stop in a travel lane. 

“This sometimes takes the motorist behind them by surprise, try to stop in time, fail, and we end up with rear-end accidents,” he said. “The continuous turn lane helps us relieve a lot of the bottlenecking we see from people stopped in what should be travel lanes, and it happens so frequently that we’re often down to one travel lane as it is, but this puts them into a safe space to wait for the appropriate break in traffic to go visit one of our businesses or head home into the neighborhood.”

The city will hold a discussion on the potential road change at its next City Council meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 8, at City Hall, 3338 Coolidge Highway.

Terbrack said city officials have been discussing this for a long while, but before approving any such change, the council needs to hear more from residents on their thoughts about the proposal.

“It’s the one group I haven’t heard a lot on this (from) yet,” he said. “I’ve heard from business owners, the (Downtown Development Authority), chamber, but I haven’t heard from a lot of residents, and the biggest thing for me is I don’t want residents to wake up one morning and just see three lanes on Coolidge.”

Residents can voice their opinions on the change at the Oct. 8 meeting, but Terbrack also hopes to hold a separate community engagement meeting on the issue as well.

If the proposal does go through, Baumgarten said the road could be restriped in spring 2019 for a trial run. If the trial is not successful in the city’s eyes, the city manager said the road could be striped back to the current configuration.

Baumgarten said that even six months to a year out, he still would consider the city to be in the testing phase.

“Restriping the road is really the most inexpensive way to actually put this into action and get real-world data before we ever progress to the point where we start to alter curb structures or consider permanent installations in the streetscaping. … We really want to make sure the traffic patterns are appropriate,” he said.