Officials weigh possibility of safety crossing at 24 Mile

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 22, 2015

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — With a large portion of 24 Mile Road ripped up for a water main installation project, now is the time to take advantage of construction cost savings.

Officials are looking into the possibility of installing a refuge island at the Macomb Orchard Trail crossing on 24 Mile Road, east of Dequindre Road, so pedestrians and cyclists using the trail can cross one side of the street at a time.

The main roadblock is finding funds.

“I’m trying to get the money for it, but we’re not there 100 percent yet,” said Macomb County Commissioner Jim Carabelli, R-Shelby Township. “I’m waiting for the engineering estimate to tell what exactly the cost is to see who can cover that and what can get done, so the township doesn’t have to pay.”

Bob Hoepfner, the director of the Macomb County Department of Roads, said he gave Carabelli a rough estimate of approximately $114,000 for the trail.

“I estimated it as if it was new construction and (no contactor) was there. I don’t have the ability to negotiate with (24 Mile road water main project contractor) Ric-Man Construction,” Hoepfner said.

If the project were to come to fruition, Hoepfner said it would be similar to the safety crossing at Dequindre Road, between Avon and Parkdale roads, which connects the Macomb Orchard Trail in Shelby to the Clinton River Trail in Rochester.

“I think it would be a nice thing. I support it, but I don’t have any money,” he said. “I don’t think there’s an imperative (to set everything in stone) until next year when that segment will be paved.”

Many officials are in favor of the project, including Macomb County Assistant Executive John Paul Rhea. Rhea said he had particular affection for the trail, as it was one of the first projects he worked on as a county employee. He added that he also lives a few miles from the crossing.

Rhea said the county looked into the 24 Mile Road enhanced crossing at the request of the Macomb Orchard Trail Commission and staged a couple of community forums for local residents and trail advocates to discuss the project.

“Right now, we’re scoping out different alternatives to meet the expectation of the community,” he said. “Our hope is to leverage the county as a partner to focus on how we might find some creative financing.”

With a contractor already in the mix and in-house engineering, Rhea said he hoped project leaders could find some Transportation Alternative Project or Southeast Michigan Council of Governments dollars, cost share and explore other options.

“We’re going to examine all of these things with all of our partners,” he said. “We don’t want any of these decisions to be haphazard or really quick, but incremental for the highest and best solution not only to benefit the cyclists and pedestrians, but also the motorists.”

Shelby Township resident Kevin O’Reilly, who can see most of the 24 Mile trail crossing from the back of his house, is an avid bicyclist and Macomb Orchard Trail user. In the spring, he put up fliers along the trail to raise awareness of the potential of a safety island at the 24 Mile trail crossing.

“We all know, when the project is done and there’s brand new pavement, the traffic is not going to be what it was before,” O’Reilly said. “It just comes down to safety. I believe, when (motorists) see a safety island, even if they just see a bicyclist or pedestrian in the middle, it catches their attention and they are more inclined to slow down and let them pass.”

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