Football Saturday traffic this fall might be worse than in previous seasons.
A new agreement between the city of Ann Arbor and the University will reduce the amount of traffic services the city provides on game days, increasing the potential of congestion on the roads. The decreased services come into effect as the University is now required, as per an Ann Arbor City Council resolution, to reimburse the city for traffic management services provided on game days and at other special events, according to an Aug. 26 City of Ann Arbor press release.
The “Signs and Signals” agreement came after the City Council unanimously passed the resolution requiring the University to compensate the city for the services that the Ann Arbor Police Department and the city’s Project Management unit provide for game day traffic control.
Under the terms of the agreement, AAPD officers will direct traffic at the intersection of Main Street and Stadium Boulevard two hours before football games begin. After the game, Ann Arbor-Saline Road will be converted to a one-way road heading south toward I-94 — a traffic system that was instated in previous years, according to a Sept. 1 City of Ann Arbor press release.
While the University has agreed to pay the city for the above services, it has forgone several services the city previously provided. According to the press release, the city will no longer provide pre-game traffic control or manual operation of traffic signals at busy intersections such as the State Street and Eisenhower Boulevard crossroads and the State Street and Briarwood Drive intersection.
However, these new conditions will not be in place for next Saturday’s night game against Notre Dame, when traffic control will be heightened. The University will pay the city $12,000 for the traffic control services, according to University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald said though the agreement has certain terms, it doesn’t completely exclude added traffic control, if requested.
“The agreement provides that the University can choose to have additional services at other home games as long as we get the city notice of that,” Fitzgerald said. “This is something we’ll evaluate — the cost versus the benefit of that — as we move forward.”
City officials say that because some services will no longer be provided, traffic may become congested at major intersections and freeway ramps on game days. Despite this possible effect, City Council member Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) said the services had become a financial burden for the city without the University’s reimbursement.
“The ongoing argument has been that the city benefits from these events,” Briere said. “It’s true to an extent, but what doesn’t benefit is the city’s budget.”
Briere noted that the city, like many other municipalities, is striving to find ways to cut spending.
“It’s clear all around the state (that) communities don’t have flexibility in their budgets anymore,” Briere said. “Now we have reached the end of our flexibility.”