Pleasant Ridge reviews Woodward Heights traffic calming study

City to reinstall stop sign, make bump out permanent

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published September 22, 2020

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PLEASANT RIDGE — In the middle of the summer, the city of Pleasant Ridge tested traffic-calming projects on Woodward Heights.

The test projects included the removal of a stop sign at the Woodward Heights and Bermuda Avenue intersection, a speed bump at the Woodward Heights and Bermuda Avenue intersection, corner bump outs at the intersections of Bermuda and Indiana avenues, and a pinch-point bump out at an alley near Woodward Avenue.

The temporary materials for the projects were installed for several weeks while Pleasant Ridge gathered data and resident feedback to present to the City Commission at its Sept. 8 meeting. At the meeting, the commission was tasked with deciding whether to make permanent changes to the tested areas.

A heavy portion of the conversation focused on the Bermuda stop sign. From the results Pleasant Ridge received, vehicle speed didn’t increase during the test because of the stop sign’s removal, and it remained almost exactly the same with an average speed of 23-23.5 miles per hour.

Though he understood it was an “unpopular position,” City Manager James Breuckman felt the stop sign was not warranted and that traffic was able to operate safely without it. He also presented data where residents reported a reduction in noise because vehicles weren’t breaking and accelerating at the stop sign.

Breuckman proposed to the commission that other pedestrian safety strategies could be implemented, such as bright green pedestrian signs at the crosswalk and maintaining its ladder striping.

“The safety at the intersection is probably equivalent either way, so if the commission decides to follow the results and impact from the majority of residents to return that stop sign there, absolutely we’ll do it,” he said.

The survey results from residents stated that 57% of Woodward Heights residents wanted the stop sign to remain, as well as 53% of non-Woodward Heights residents.

The potential of the stop sign’s removal gave some homeowners on Woodward Heights concern. From what he heard during the presentation, Robert Koch said it didn’t sound like there was much of a problem to warrant the sign’s removal.

“I almost think that we’re trying to come up with a solution to a problem that maybe doesn’t exist,” he said.

Another Woodward Heights resident, Richard Burr, said he was a big proponent of keeping the stop sign in place.

Burr felt the more wide-open nature of the street gives motorists a signal to drive faster, but having that stop sign says to them, “This is a residential community.”

“Everybody knows that Woodward Heights is now the new faster cut-through through an industrial part of town in Ferndale into a more residential part of Woodward Heights,” he said. “I would argue that having a stop sign there — even though it’s allegedly unwarranted for speed reasons only — I would argue that it teaches people to watch for pedestrians, it teaches people ... that they are in a residential neighborhood and that they should pay attention.”

Though commissioners saw the positives in getting rid of the stop sign and felt it might be an improvement for the city, the commission voted unanimously to keep it instead of moving forward with different signage for pedestrian safety. Mayor Kurt Metzger went back and forth on the issue himself before stating that an area with nice signage instead of a stop sign hasn’t been properly tested, and what they used during the project wasn’t the best test for people who were worried about safety more than speed.

“I’m just not sure that we can prove to residents that we’ve got this great idea and this result will be the end all and be all and answer the kinds of questions and the issues and the concerns that they have,” he said.

The commission also decided to not move forward with a speed bump at Bermuda and the bump outs at Indiana and Woodward Heights.

The only Woodward Heights test project Pleasant Ridge will look to make permanent in the future is the bump outs at the alley near Woodward Avenue. Breuckman said the city has the ability to add some green space with the “pinch point” and reinforce the area as a green neighborhood. He estimated it would cost about $30,000 to implement the bump outs.

As for the resident survey results, 55% of Woodward Heights residents and 31% of non-Woodward Heights residents approved a permanent pinch point. In their addresses to the commission, both Burr and Koch agreed that the bump outs should stay.

“I noticed when you had those temporary bump outs out that traffic did slow down significantly, and I think that’s an inexpensive way to take care of that and it beautifies the street,” Koch said.