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 Officials say the approved conceptual plan provides continued access to Albertson, maintains the current Dairy Queen drive configuration, and enhances pedestrian traffic movement and safety.

Officials say the approved conceptual plan provides continued access to Albertson, maintains the current Dairy Queen drive configuration, and enhances pedestrian traffic movement and safety.

Photo by Deb Jacques

MDOT grant to improve safety at Rochester Road intersection

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published September 18, 2018


ROCHESTER — The city of Rochester was recently awarded a safety enhancement grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation that city officials say will improve safety at the intersection of Rochester Road, and Romeo and Albertson streets.

The grant is an 80-20 split, meaning MDOT will pay for 80 percent of the costs associated with the road and storm sewer construction — which Rochester Department of Public Works Director Shannon Filarecki said will cost about $500,000 overall — and the city will pay for 20 percent.

The city originally scheduled a sewer project for Romeo under a sanitary sewer revolving fund, but instead of opening up the road twice, officials plan to make all of the upgrades at once.

“It’s removed about $337,000 in cost from the sanitary sewer revolving fund program. Now we’ve allocated that to other areas to have open cut repairs done, and we’ll be able to do this part of the repair work as part of the MDOT realignment. The only cost the city would have would then be the underground costs, not the pavement removal, not the pavement restoration, not the ground restoration,” Filarecki said.

After reviewing four conceptual designs, city and MDOT officials have finally agreed upon a conceptual plan for the realignment of the intersection.

“The option that we picked was one that has the most residents happy and still meets the requirement for a safety enhancement grant, so we can still get our funding,” Filarecki explained.

The original concept had provided an intersection that aligned Romeo Street with Albertson Street, which was not approved due to concerns about its close proximity to the new building at 804 N. Main St. and the direct introduction of traffic onto Albertson.

The second option closed off the approach on Albertson Street to Rochester Road entirely and created a pocket park, which was eliminated because it didn’t provide access to the two businesses north of Albertson, on the west side of Main Street.

The third option allowed one way in to Albertson Street, added a pedestrian crosswalk just south of the entrance to Albertson, redirected the area of flow around Dairy Queen, and pushed Romeo Street further away from 804 N. Main St., allowing the traffic heading westbound on Main to head directly into Dairy Queen, with customers exiting from the south.

Officials nixed the plan because Filarecki said “it was not a pleasing approach for the owner of Dairy Queen,” adding that MDOT did not like the angular pedestrian crossing on Rochester Road.  

The fourth configuration, which was favored by officials, reconfigures the intersection so that the traffic flow around Dairy Queen remains as it is today, but it aligns the northerly exit lane with the eastbound lane of Romeo. It also reconfigures Albertson as a one-way-in-only connection from southbound Main.

Officials liked this plan best because provides continued Albertson access, maintains the current Dairy Queen drive configuration, increases the road setback from 804 N. Main St., provides a signalized outlet and direct access from Dairy Queen to Romeo, and enhances pedestrian traffic movement and safety.

Filarecki said the grant will improve signalization in the area by allowing for a phased smart traffic signal at Dairy Queen that will likely use a camera to tell the mechanism when to phase in the lights.

“We’re adding another phase to the traffic signal operation that would allow for a phased signal for those people leaving Dairy Queen, so they don’t have to guess and check when they might want to make that turn,” said Filarecki. “Currently, there’s no signal, so there’s no way to tell when you should go.”

Officials say the new design will make the intersection safer for pedestrians, with the addition of two signalized crosswalks — one north of Romeo and one on Romeo.

During construction, the city also plans to relocate and update the utilities under the road and in the area.

“We have various pipes and utilities under there. When our engineers popped one of the manholes open, I saw what I literally consider a mess,” said City Manager Blaine Wing. “So when this is open, it would allow us to fix the alignments and the sanitary sewer and the water.”

Mayor Rob Ray said there is currently a gas main going through a manhole under the intersection, which he said is an entirely unsafe situation.

“Absent anything else ... there is a known hazard in a manhole approximately in the middle of that intersection. So, I think whatever needs to be done to fix that puts a shovel in the ground, and if there’s a way we cannot pay all that cost, it’s probably a sound thing to do,” said Ray.

Rochester City Councilman Ben Giovanelli said he appreciates how many times officials went back to the drawing board to come up with a plan that pleases local residents, business owners and officials.

“I’m just shocked that nothing bad has happened there yet. … We really need to do some sort of remedial action to make it somewhat safer,” he said. “It’s sheer chaos over there. … This is the best-case scenario.”

City Councilman Stuart Bikson said he is in favor of anything that makes Rochester Road more efficient.

“This is a good compromise and has a lot of advantages,” he said.

Councilwoman Ann Peterson, on the other hand, said she’s not in favor of the plan at all.

“I don’t think it’s really necessary, whether (we have) grant funding or not. I think we are causing more issues in the future with that intersection,” she said.

Filarecki said the city will work with MDOT to get the design and construction schedule put together.

“By working with MDOT, not only can we improve an intersection that MDOT has been concerned about for a long time, we can get them and the federal government to pay 80 percent of the cost of doing the road and storm sewer work, and then, while that ground is opened up, we can pay to put the utilities where they need to be, upgrade the utilities, improve the utilities, seal off sanitary sewers, locate gas mains and electrical lines, and the cost of doing that is substantially less when you’re not having to pay to put the pavement back in. It’s a great way to bring multiple agencies together to achieve multiple goals, and everybody gets a cost savings,” Filarecki said.

Wing said he anticipates starting the project in the spring of 2020.