By Ian Dillingham, Summer Editor in Chief
Published July 7, 2014
At their bimonthly meeting Monday night, the Ann Arbor City Council debated proposed road closures during football games at Michigan Stadium after receiving input from John Seto, Ann Arbor Police Chief.
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The council addressed the closure of northbound Main Street three hours prior to games and the closure of southbound Main Street one hour prior — procedures that have elicited concerns from residents in the area.
Following a 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Ann Arbor Police and University Police implemented new safety procedures regarding traffic flow around the stadium. After receiving input from the community, several proposed modifications to the procedures were enacted in an effort to alleviate congestion for local residents.
Seto held a forum on July 1 to discuss the potential impacts of road closures with city residents.
“It’s a balance between security and inconvenience,” Seto said at the July 1 meeting.
At Monday’s meeting, Seto said his experience with crowds during the 2013 season led him to believe that closing northbound traffic three hours prior was an appropriate response, because it allowed officers to secure half the road before the largest crowds began descending on the stadium.
After hosting the public forum, he noted that residents primarily voiced concerns over post-game congestion, not the pre-game closures.
Councilmember Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4) opposed the measure, stating that he was generally opposed to the closing of any roads on game days. However, Eaton — along with Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje — commended Seto’s efforts to involve community members in the implementation of such procedures.
Also opposed to the proposal, Councilmember Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) expressed doubts that the measures added considerably to security, and questioned why similar closures were not instituted after the games if vehicle traffic was considered such a danger. She suggested that Council amend the proposal to close northbound traffic for one hour after the game.
Seto said after games, police must balance security with the need to move fans away from the stadium efficiently.
“We’ve made those considerations and thought about it last year,” Seto said. “To reduce the risk to stadium (patrons), one of the ways is to get people out of there as quickly as possible.”
He also noted that, once closed, the road could be overrun with pedestrian traffic and therefore difficult to reopen until all the crowds fully disperse.
Those in favor of the proposal cited the 2013 federal report and the general need to promote safety as justification for any inconvenience in traffic flow.
“This came from federal security officials,” Councilmember Margie Teall (D–Ward 4) said. “The idea that we would second guess this is kind of scary to me.”
“When you have vehicles and that many pedestrians at the beginning of the game, we certainly can’t stop everything, but we can certainly minimize the opportunity,” added Councilmember Stephen Kunselman (D–Ward 3). “I see this opportunity as minimizing the opportunity for something bad to happen.”
The measure eventually passed Council with Briere, Eaton and Councilmember Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1) opposing.