Utica Road down to one lane at Gratiot, 12 Mile

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published April 4, 2016

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ROSEVILLE — The Michigan Department of Transportation has given approval to the city of Roseville to reduce the turn onto northbound Utica Road to one lane at the intersection with Gratiot Avenue, according to Roseville City Manager Scott Adkins.

The Macomb County Department of Roads also agreed to put in a right-turn-only lane on southbound Utica at 12 Mile Road, Adkins said.

Both lane reductions are the final step needed in a study to see what the impact of reducing Utica to one lane has on traffic patterns and accidents.

“When the initial nod was given from the county road commission to implement parking on the street and traffic shifts at Gratiot and 12 Mile, we did those pieces, but there were two missing links,” Adkins said. “How do we address the two lanes coming from Gratiot onto Utica, and the two lanes (on the north side of) Utica at 12 Mile merging to one lane in each direction? It took some time to get that review through the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“By restricting those lanes prior to the crossovers, you give people ample time to merge properly,” he added. “Right now, what’s happening was a competition of two lanes of traffic merging into one.”

Utica Road was reduced to one lane in each direction last October, with on-street parking along the curb and a dedicated left-turn lane in the center of the road.

Adkins said the city has noticed that traffic has slowed down along Utica Road since the road was reduced to one lane between Gratiot and 12 Mile, and now vehicles have been going the speed limit. Furthermore, there has been a reduction in the number of rear-end collisions, he said, as drivers no longer need to sit in an active traffic lane waiting for the opposite lanes to clear.

Police Chief James Berlin said that since the changes were implemented, the police have seen “surprisingly few” accidents on Utica, thanks to drivers being forced to slow down. There have been additional benefits to businesses along the road too, he said, thanks to on-street parking being added where there once was an additional lane.

“It’s slowed people down significantly, which was part of the reason for doing it — so they could see the businesses alongside the road,” Berlin said. “The businesses that are there are reporting increases in their business, because people can park, run in and get a slice of pizza or whatever, and go back out.”

The type of traffic apparently has shifted too. Adkins said Utica used to be a shortcut for people coming from St. Clair Shores to areas like Sterling Heights, and motorists would sometimes travel around 50 mph. Now traffic volumes have changed as the motorists looking for a shortcut have found alternate routes, leaving Utica for local traffic and those visiting businesses.

“This road originally was a one-lane road with a boulevard back in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s,” he said. “So it’s also a return back to the downtown neighborhood feel that once was down there. Unless you were a longtime resident of the city, you may not remember that.”

Adkins said he has heard comments from some people asking why the city is interested in these changes now rather than when Utica might have more businesses and development on it, but the city reasoned that it would be easier to make any changes now than when the area is more established. Additionally, he said he has been fielding calls from prospective developers who have become interested based on the changes.

When these additional measures are in place, Adkins said the city engineers and police will be studying the traffic and accident data collected over the following 90 days, as well as getting public feedback, before making a recommendation to the City Council sometime in the middle of summer. At that point, the City Council can opt to make these changes permanent or reverse course to leave Utica with two lanes each way again.

Adkins said the data collected over the winter will also be under consideration to help determine what winter traffic conditions are like on Utica. If a recommendation to make the changes permanent is adopted, the city could consider additional measures like adding in crosswalks, he added.