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Ann Arbor City Council met Tuesday night to approve an amendment to a resolution proposing changes to East Medical Center Drive Bridge near the University of Michigan Medical Center. 

The council previously approved a resolution in October 2021 to establish a services agreement with DLZ Michigan, an architectural and engineering consulting firm, to widen the bridge, a four-lane road over the Amtrak Michigan line and the main route to the University of Michigan Medical Center. 

University officials have previously told City Council they are interested in adding another lane for automobile traffic, which would reduce the west sidewalk from 10 1/2 feet to eight feet wide. According to Michael Rein, the University’s director of community relations, the reduction in width of the west sidewalk was designed to promote safer bicycle traffic.

“That reduction from 10 1/2 to eight feet was by design to promote traffic on the east side — safer bicycle traffic, safer non-motorized traffic,” Rein said.

Rackham student Bethany Beekly told the council during public commentary that the proposed design would make the bridge more dangerous for bicycle and pedestrian traffic, as well as threaten Ann Arbor’s goals to decrease carbon emissions and cut vehicle miles traveled in half. 

“As it currently stands … the bridge widening proposal is inadequate on pedestrian and cyclist safety and also counterproductive for our climate goals,” Beekly said. “Trying to solve congestion issues by increasing car capacity is a strategy that we’ve known for decades to be counterproductive.”

Councilmember Erica Briggs, D-Ward 5, proposed an amendment asking the council to encourage the city administrator to proceed with efforts to rehabilitate the bridge without widening it if an agreement cannot be made with the University to expand sidewalks on either side of the road. 

Briggs expressed that if this amendment was not passed, she would be in favor of simply rehabilitating the bridge rather than widening it. 

“It’s important to note that the city’s plans do not call for widening this bridge,” Briggs said. “Our (Capital Improvement Plan) called for rehabilitation. City staff has expressed no concerns with simply rehabilitating the bridge and not widening. The desire to widen this infrastructure has come from the University of Michigan.”

Councilmember Jen Eyer, D-Ward 4, expressed her support for the amendment, emphasizing the safety concerns. 

“A vote against this amendment is a vote to make this situation more dangerous,” Eyer said. 

Ultimately, Briggs’ proposed amendment failed 5-6 with councilmembers Eyer, Briggs, Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, Linh Song, D-Ward 2, and Julie Grand, D-Ward 3, voting in favor. 

Briggs noted that the proposed changes would make the sidewalk on the west side narrower, noting the dangers this would cause to cyclists and pedestrians.

“There are more cyclists on the western side of that intersection than on the eastern side, and that’s for a reason,” Briggs said. “(Cyclists are) trying to avoid the dangerous conditions that are along Fuller and Glen and regardless of what the University suggests, people are taking West Medical Center Drive because it’s safer. They could reroute in the future … we could ask that of them. Or we could ask the University to pay to do this project properly.”

Councilmember Kathy Griswold, D-Ward 2, countered saying there are also potential safety concerns if a fifth lane is not added. 

“I see the risk to the pedestrians and cyclists being greater if we do not add the lane,” Griswold said. “The way it functions there is only one lane into the hospital. Can you imagine if we have a disaster and we have fifty-plus ambulances trying to get into our regional center… they’re going to be driving on the pedestrian infrastructure on the side of the road.”

Before the final vote on the motion, Mayor Christopher Taylor expressed his support for widening the bridge and hope for working with the University in the future to address the concerns of the community.

“I believe that the action tonight works to promote flexibility to meet those concerns,” Taylor said. “I believe that we will achieve that goal by working together with the University. It’s my full expectation that the University will be a substantial partner in all aspects of improving this area.”

The motion passed 6-5, with councilmembers Eyer, Briggs, Hayner, Song and Grand voting against the proposed expansion of the bridge. 

Daily Staff Reporter Audrey Clayton can be reached at