Public input has been sought for a possible “road diet” for Orchard Lake Road between Commerce and Middlebelt roads.

Public input has been sought for a possible “road diet” for Orchard Lake Road between Commerce and Middlebelt roads.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Road diet planned for Orchard Lake Road

Road Commission seeks public input on study to change lane configuration

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 9, 2021

 A new study could help reduce the number of crashes on Orchard Lake Road between Commerce and Middlebelt roads.

A new study could help reduce the number of crashes on Orchard Lake Road between Commerce and Middlebelt roads.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — The Road Commission for Oakland County, in partnership with West Bloomfield Township, Orchard Lake, Keego Harbor and Sylvan Lake, is seeking public input on a study to change the lane configuration on Orchard Lake Road between Commerce and Middlebelt roads.

According to a press release, the Road Commission secured funding to repave the four-lane road in 2023, which provides an opportunity to change the configuration at that point.

One of the goals of the study is to identify a way to improve safety along the corridor, which, according to the release, experiences a “significant” number of crashes.

According to Craig Bryson, who is a senior communications manager for the Road Commission, there were 389 total crashes along the corridor between 2017 and 2019.

He discussed the reasoning for a potential configuration change.

“For a number of years, we had been concerned about the number of crashes on that road,” Bryson said. “It’s currently a four-lane road, (with) two lanes in either direction, no center left-turn lane for most of the stretch. So, we were seeing a lot of two types of crashes in particular, one being rear-end collisions, and the other being rapid lane shift sideswipes, both of which are consistent with somebody being stopped in the center-through lane to make a left turn and a car coming up behind them and either not being able to (or) not realizing they’re stopped, and not being able to stop fast enough or seeing the car stopped, and trying to quickly shift lanes without looking to make sure there’s nobody else in the next lane over.”

Bryson said a four-lane road is far from an ideal situation.

“In fact, we don’t build four-lane roads anymore,” he said. “That one’s been there for quite a while.”

According to Bryson, approximately 25,000 vehicles travel on Orchard Lake per day.

Three options have been considered for the “road diet.”

The first is to convert the current four-lane road to three lanes, with a continuous center, left-turn lane.

“It’s one lane in either direction and a center left-turn lane, and that eliminates the problem of cars stopping in a through lane to make a left turn,” Bryson said. “But it also reduces the number of through lanes and, therefore, reduces the capacity of the road, and that’s a pretty congested road.”

The second option is an “unbalanced” four-lane roadway, which would include two west-bound through lanes, a continuous center left-turn lane, and one eastbound through lane.

“Everybody seems to like that,” Bryson said. “But we wanted to throw it out to the community and see what the public thinks of this idea. It’s something we have not done before at the Road Commission. I think there may be a few other places in Michigan where it’s been tried, but we certainly have not done it before. It’s a new concept, but it’s a good way to not lose much traffic capacity while also increasing safety and not changing the footprint of the road. So that led to the idea of going out and doing a survey.”

The first two options would help address the existing crash patterns, according to the release.

The final option is to leave the lane configuration as it is, with four through lanes and no center left-turn lane throughout most of the corridor.

“Ultimately, we’ll make the decision based on all the different inputs we get,” Bryson said. “The input of the public through the survey, the input of the public through their elected officials and into the communities, (and) our engineers’ assessments. … All of those things come together, and then we’ll make the best decision we can based on all those factors.”

Bryson estimated the total cost of the project to be $2.346 million, with federal funding being approved for 80% of it, and the four local communities — West Bloomfield, Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake and Sylvan Lake — also paying a share.

Those interested in participating in or finding out more about the study can view a narrated presentation on Road Commission’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/kcd_SZKN8Ao.

Public input on the study is being accepted through June 11.

Click to participate in a survey about the project.

The release states that the options were identified by consulting engineering firm OHM Advisors and accepted by the project stakeholders, which include the Road Commission and officials of the four communities.

The project does not allow for any widening of the road, as the release states that the cost to do so would be “substantially” more expensive and would require the purchasing and removal of existing businesses. Therefore, any changes would have to be made within the existing curbs on the road.

West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan is a proponent of making a change to the current lane configuration.

“The reason for the reconfiguration is safety, because currently that’s a four-lane road, and there’s no dedicated left-turn lane,” he said. “So, there are accidents that happen with rear-end collisions. … The road curves in many parts; the road is curving, there’s no left-hand turn lane, and suddenly the vehicle — if you’re not on the inside lane, you’re on the outside lane — the vehicle in front of you decides to turn left without signaling. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Kaplan said the project is a “win-win-win.”

“The county Road Commission gained federal funding,” he said. “Keep in mind, when a county is seeking federal funding, that county is competing with not only the tri-county area and the state of Michigan, but also other municipalities outside of Michigan. Therefore, for the Road Commission to gain federal funding, that’s a monumental effort.”

Bryson said this type of project typically takes three to four months. He acknowledged that it is a “major inconvenience” for residents, businesses and schools alike. He can also empathize.

“We drive the roads, as well,” he said. “The only way to improve a road, to improve the safety of the road, to improve the physical condition of the road surface, is to do a project like this. There’s just no way to fix a road without doing the actual construction. So, we thank people very wholeheartedly for their patience and their willingness to put up with this, but we also encourage them to think of the long-term benefit for everybody in the community.”

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