Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution Monday evening allocating funding to rehabilitate and widen the East Medical Center Drive bridge located by Michigan Medicine. Under the resolution, more than $1 million would be granted to DLZ Michigan, Inc. for engineering design services.
The project includes widening the existing bridge deck and the piers. This rehabilitation would enable future redesigning of the bridge to eventually connect it to the nearby Border-to-Border Trail.
The bridge is primarily used for access to the University of Michigan’s hospital, and the University will be covering the entire cost of widening the bridge and 50% of the entire rehabilitation project cost to help decrease traffic congestion around East Medical Center Drive.
The resolution passed unanimously. Under the resolution, project construction is anticipated to begin in 2023.
During the scheduled public hearing for the resolution, Ann Arbor resident Erich Zechar said the intersection is extremely dangerous for pedestrians due to heavy traffic flow and a lack of pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. He advocated for rebuilding the bridge without widening it due to safety concerns and said he thinks funds should be allocated for improving pedestrian infrastructure instead.
“It’s pretty much the most dangerous intersection in the area,” Zechar said. “(The resolution) fixes a bridge in need of repairs, which is really good. We need to take care of our infrastructure. But it also makes a dangerous intersection even worse for many people who are already on foot or on bike, and it discourages non-motorized traffic.”
Ann Arbor resident Michelle Hughes also called in, saying she would prefer that the city focus more on pedestrian safety rather than creating another lane for cars. Hughes also said the city crash map indicates the danger of the intersection.
“This is an opportunity to rethink … what we need out of that road and out of the intersection by the hospital,” Hughes said. “This intersection is a dangerous place with a lot of pedestrian crashes. It is this problem that should be our first, most urgent consideration.”
Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, supported the additional lane to the hospital and said she did not believe it would increase traffic to the emergency room.
“I believe that this extra lane is needed to get traffic to the emergency department,” Griswold said. “I don’t think it is our place to reduce response time to the emergency room.”
Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, emphasized that pedestrian safety was impacted by the intersections, crosswalks, lighting and lack of visibility around the bridge, rather than the lanes of traffic on the bridge.
“The dangers exist as you approach the bridge, (at) the corners, (at) the areas surrounding the lanes of traffic — not the lanes of traffic itself,” Ramlawi said.
Daily Staff Reporter Navya Gupta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.