The city of Ferndale is looking at potentially changing Woodward Avenue by removing a lane and adding a two-way bike path.

The city of Ferndale is looking at potentially changing Woodward Avenue by removing a lane and adding a two-way bike path.

Rendering provided by the city of Ferndale

Cities look at Woodward Avenue lane reduction, two-way bike path

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published August 19, 2019


FERNDALE — Ferndale could be looking at reducing Woodward Avenue by one lane in the future.

During its Aug. 5 meeting, the City Council discussed the Woodward Avenue Bicycling and Walking Safety Audit that was conducted over the last six months. The council approved the plan as a concept to look at how Woodward could be changed.

The change being discussed is reducing Woodward from four lanes to three. On-street parking would replace the right-most lane and a two-way bike path would be added, with the parking to act as a buffer. The sidewalks also would be reconstructed and widened.

According to the report, the road diet concept promotes “safer speeds and makes merging easier for drivers.”

City Planner Justin Lyons told the Woodward Talk that although a concept the city could work toward was approved, nothing is final yet and it doesn’t mean it will happen in the immediate future.

“This particular audit really focuses on safety, and if you’re going to think about safety and ways to improve safety, what designs make sense for that,” he said. “It’s really a high-level design. It doesn’t mean we’re going to go out and do this tomorrow, but it’s something that we’re exploring with our regional partners and with (the Michigan Department of Transportation).”

The other regional partner is Pleasant Ridge, whose City Commission also adopted the audit at its July meeting. The Ferndale council approved a joint traffic study with Pleasant Ridge, Lyons said.

The presentation Aug. 5 laid out a timeline. After the audit’s approval, a traffic study will be conducted over the next two months, followed by a community meeting in September. Potential designs would be made between September and November, and resurfacing could happen between April and August 2020.

“The next steps really are for us to get this traffic study, see what the data says and if this is even a possibility,” Lyons said. “We know that MDOT is tentatively going to resurface Woodward in 2020. Our thought is this traffic study is going to give us more information on if we are able to incorporate any elements of this safety audit and design in that project, or if this is a later project. Even if we were to extend a pedestrian crossing time by a few seconds to get someone from one side of Woodward to the other, we would have to do this traffic study.”

Green infrastructure, traffic signal timing and pedestrian crossing improvements also were recommended as part of the audit. Lyons said that Ferndale officials know not everything can happen at once, but the traffic study will let them know what could fit into MDOT’s project, which will lead into the city’s planning for the future.

Some at the meeting shared concerns about a bike path on Woodward. Dennis Augustson believes that the bike paths should be scrapped, as he finds it “very unsafe.”

“If you got to be 16 years old to drive, why would you want to put your little kid on a seat behind you and go down Woodward Avenue?” he said.

Augustson said that a path in the median of Woodward might be a better idea.

“Get it off the road, get them away from the cars, put it both ways on a median,” he said. “Might look a little stupid, but if you really want to do something like that, put it in the median. You got all that room up there, but to put it on Woodward Avenue — most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

Mayor Pro Tem Greg Pawlica recounted how there were concerns about removing a lane on Nine Mile Road, but that led to drivers having to slow down. He said that’s what the city needs for Woodward.

“The only way you’re going to do this is by doing this kind of study and moving in this direction,” he said. “The only place I feel safe walking across Woodward is in downtown Detroit, where there’s two lanes going north and two lanes going south.

“This is the direction that society is moving into,” Pawlica further stated. “It’s moving into pedestrian walking, it’s moving into nonmotorized transportation, and we could either be on the forefront or we can be forced to make the decisions later when it’s going to be more costly. I choose to be a pioneer.”