Members of the Eastpointe City Council and administrators listen during the Feb. 6 meeting regarding the road diet.

Members of the Eastpointe City Council and administrators listen during the Feb. 6 meeting regarding the road diet.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Eastpointe council halts Nine Mile Road diet plan

By: Maria Allard | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 29, 2024


EASTPOINTE — The “road diet” plan to change Nine Mile Road from five lanes to three lanes between Pleasant and Tuscany avenues has been nixed.

At the Feb. 6 City Council meeting, the council had voted 3-2 in favor of the “road diet,” with Mayor Michael Klinefelt, Margaret Podsiadlik and Mayor Pro Tem Cardi DeMonaco Jr. voting in favor of the motion, and Rob Baker and Harvey Curley voting against it.

However, after learning from the Michigan Department of Transportation that the city would lose federal dollars if the road diet went through, some council members changed their minds on the project.

At the March 19 City Council meeting, the council voted 4-1 to rescind the Feb. 6 vote, which will keep the area at five lanes instead of three. Klinefelt, Podsiadlik, Baker and Curley voted in favor of rescinding the motion. DeMonaco Jr. cast the dissenting vote.

A “road diet” is basically the shrinking of the road. Eastpointe road diet proponents say that going from five to three lanes would create a more walkable area and attract more businesses and pedestrians who will shop locally. Supporters also say it will make the road safer.

At the March 19 meeting, Assistant City Manager Kim Homan informed the council that MDOT would not use the current funding for the three-lane road diet. The council had to vote by March 20 or risk losing the funding.

“MDOT said that due to the change of scope, which was changing basically the intent of the project (so) that it’s no longer a reconstruction, that the current funds cannot be used,” Homan said. “They said the traffic studies from 2021 were not acceptable. They were not comfortable with the data from 2021, as it was taken during the COVID pandemic, so they would want that to be redone or new studies to be done.

“Tabling or taking no action, according to MDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, would be the same as declining the funds,” Homan said. “If phase two is not done, we may lose the federal funding for phase three. MDOT made it very clear that it was coming from the Federal Highway Administration. It’s not being for or against. The current funding cannot be used for a proposed three-lane. There’s not enough information put together yet for that to move forward.”

Nine Mile Road currently has five lanes of traffic: two going eastbound, two going westbound and a center turning lane. The current construction on Nine Mile Road is part of the Modern Nine Main Street Project that began last year in the city. The project, to be completed in three phases, will include a new road, the installation of a new water main system and a new main gas line. Construction between Pleasant and Tuscany avenues is phase two of the project.

If city officials held off on submitting new traffic studies for a road diet, they would lose the funding due to deadlines for the road construction project. The city also might lose contractors.

The cost of phase two is approximately $5.2 million, but the bids could come in higher or lower, and 81.85% of the construction is being paid for with federal funding. The 18.15% match is being covered by the Act 51 funds that the city receives from the state through the gas tax.

DeMonaco Jr., in favor of the road diet, wanted to “put together some meetings to figure this out” with MDOT, the Federal Highway Administration and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

“We can work together and make this happen,” he said. “We can show how this can be beneficial to the community.”

While the phase two portion of the project will stay five lanes, council still has the option of creating a road diet for phase three of the project, which is the area of Tuscany to Interstate 94.

A large number of residents and business owners gathered at Eastpointe City Hall for the council meeting Feb. 6 to voice their concerns about the road diet. Many were against the idea, while a few were in favor of it.

Steve Gunn, whose son owns Wash Pointe Car Wash on Nine Mile Road, spoke about the project at the hearing of the public March 19. Gunn said that he surveyed customers about the possibility of a road diet on Nine Mile Road. Out of 376 people, 16 people liked the idea of a three-lane road, 20 people weren’t sure and 340 customers wanted the road to remain five lanes.

“It’s an unscientific poll, but these are people that drive Nine Mile,” he said. “They’re regular people coming down the road. I didn’t solicit them, just asked a simple question. That’s just a little bit of information. I don’t know if it helps, I don’t think it hurts. Every little bit of information will help you.”