While change can come at a snail’s pace, this will at least be a light jog.
On Wednesday Dec. 11, ReImagine Washtenaw will present the results of a study on travel that analyzes the Washtenaw Avenue corridor at the County Service Center LRC from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The recommendations are part of the right-of-way effort to increase pedestrian and transit safety in the corridor between the Washtenaw Avenue and Stadium Boulevard split in Ann Arbor to the water tower near Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. The stretch of road under consideration is four and a half to five miles long.
Nathan Voght, project manager for ReImagine Washtenaw, said the proposals include increased space for bike lanes, better sidewalks and additional crosswalks — all while maintaining enough space for traffic. Many of the proposals were first suggested by members of the public at an open meeting in May.
Funding for the study came from a HUD Sustainable Community Challenge Planning Grant and was headed by SmithgroupJJR a consulting group, according to a press release. Voght said safety is a primary concern for the new proposals.
“People want and should deserve to have a safe area to walk along the corridor or cross the street along a corridor like this,” Voght said. “It’s kind of shameful that we haven’t provided that over fifty or sixty years that we’ve been able to have the opportunity to do so.”
Voght said the project will probably be funded through a combination of private and public support. Despite focusing on suggestions from public input, the proposals may not necessarily be well received at the December meeting.
“There are many people that look at the conditions out in the road today and they really have a hard time imagining it being different,” Voght said.
Ann Arbor resident Kathy Griswold, a former school board member, said she worries the proposals will look too far into the future without addressing the current traffic and pedestrian safety issues. Griswold said widening bike lanes would complicate traffic patterns by sacrificing the street width for cars.
“It’s totally unrealistic to reduce the width for the number of traffic lanes on Washtenaw,” Griswold said. “I’m frequently caught there when I forget to avoid the area, between like one o’clock and five o’clock it’s almost total gridlock.”
Voght said the traffic and bike lane trade-off is being considered and that there are both short- and long-term proposals that will be forwarded to address some of the more pressing issues.