With plan finished, WA3 looks for buy-in from Woodward cities

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published February 9, 2016

 Making Woodward Avenue safe for bicyclists and pedestrians is a crucial part of the Woodward Avenue Action Association Complete Streets master plan, which looks at the entire 27-mile corridor from Detroit to Pontiac.

Making Woodward Avenue safe for bicyclists and pedestrians is a crucial part of the Woodward Avenue Action Association Complete Streets master plan, which looks at the entire 27-mile corridor from Detroit to Pontiac.

Rendering provided by the Woodward Avenue Action Association

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PLEASANT RIDGE — After more than five years of studying Woodward Avenue from Detroit to Pontiac, the Woodward Avenue Action Association has put the final touches on its Complete Streets plan for the corridor.

But that is just the beginning, WA3 Board Vice Chairman Kurt Metzger said.

While years have been spent figuring out the methods to make the iconic 27-mile road easier to travel in vehicles, as well as on foot and on bicycles, Metzger said the next stage includes getting all 11 communities and two counties along the corridor to buy in and find the best funding solution.

“Each of the 11 communities, plus the two counties, are supposed to more or less pass a resolution of support, as we are presenting (the plan) to each community to ask for their support,” said Metzger, who is also the Pleasant Ridge mayor. “I think when you look at the concepts and what Complete Streets entails, it is something most people support, but it always becomes somewhat political.”

An issue facing WA3, Metzger said, is with the Complete Streets philosophy becoming more apparent in each city, communities may be less inclined to support an all-encompassing plan and elect to do their own plans.

But one community along Woodward that has proven that both independent plans and working as a group can work is Ferndale, Metzger said. Ferndale has adopted several Complete Streets policies in recent years to include bike lanes on its roads and make conditions safer for pedestrians to walk across and along streets.

“Ferndale is as supportive as any community,” Metzger said. “They have done work around bikeability and Complete Streets on Nine Mile and everywhere else, and are ahead of most (communities) in terms of looking at those issues. They make it hard to argue with the concepts of what a Complete Streets plan entails.”

The plan being presented to all the Woodward communities includes a bus rapid transit (BRT) system in the median of Woodward, which has been discussed at length in several communities for the past few years.

It also looks at putting bike lanes along on-street parking, thus reducing the number of lanes traveling in each direction on Woodward. Trees, stormwater management and branding are also part of the plan along the 27-mile corridor.

One of the biggest issues was at the intersection of Woodward and Interstate 696, but the plan suggests filling in the underpass and bringing Woodward above I-696 to accommodate the BRT system and make the area less imposing for bicyclists and pedestrians trying to go from Pleasant Ridge to Royal Oak or Huntington Woods.

“Woodward is the main spine of metro Detroit, and the whole idea of Complete Streets is providing access to multiple modes of transit,” Metzger said. “The increased desire for bicycle lanes, and more people looking to commute on bicycles, along with the idea of wider streets with tree plantings and places to sit down, that is what you hear people want more and more — especially young people.

“People want walkability and want areas where you can meet and greet and much more.”
Sandra Montes, the Oakland County transportation service center manager with the Michigan Department of Transportation, said MDOT is in favor of the WA3 Complete Streets plan.

However, supporting the plan is one thing, Montes said, while the roughly $1 billion price tag that would accompany the project is another issue, as is looking at the street infrastructure as a whole.

“MDOT has been so underfunded for so long that it is a battle to try and keep a system together, no less redoing a street from top to bottom,” Montes said. “And we need a more systematic approach and cannot look at Woodward in isolation, but at the bigger network of roads we have a responsibility for. There is no plan for this work in our five-year plan, which is as far as we have looked out.”

Montes said that whenever MDOT looks to do work on any of the roads it oversees, MDOT always takes a Complete Streets philosophy into the project. While years ago, roadwork was always aimed toward vehicles, she said they are sensitive to the other modes now.

Going forward with the WA3 plan, when and if all communities and counties buy in, Montes said she hopes MDOT and the WA3 can work with individual projects instead of a complete overhaul all at once.

“We support the concept and it is a great guide to sort of follow, but we might need smaller, more manageable concepts,” she said. “We can talk about putting Woodward on a diet and taking away lanes. And we want to see input from all the communities as to what works for them.”

While the plan is grand in scale, Metzger said that by putting the Complete Streets plan in action, it puts metro Detroit at the forefront of this kind of innovation.

“If Detroit is going to be an example of street design and what we are seeing across the country, Woodward is the place to do that,” he said.

“There are a lot of test projects and spots with some work, but Woodward would make a real statement that the Detroit metropolitan area is serious about redesigning their whole transit system.”

For more information on the WA3 Complete Streets plan, visit www.woodwardavenue.org and click on “Complete Streets” under the “Invest” tab.

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