eMacomb - Planning News, Winter 2015
The Walkability Factor
Macomb County roads are always evolving, and whether you drive, take the bus or ride your bike to work, roads affect all of our daily lives. Many spend hours sitting on these roads in rush hour traffic while commuting to work each week. Every winter, we turn to our local news for weather and traffic report updates to plot out alternate routes and hope the roads are plowed. Even Executive Mark A. Hackel has taken up the topic, asking local legislators to look at our potholes and take action.
While the northern part of Macomb County is paving dirt roads and widening busy thoroughfares, the built-up southern end of the county is taking measures to close the concrete gap. An example of this can be seen on Gratiot Avenue in Clinton Township.
In an effort to improve pedestrian safety, the Michigan Department of Transportation has installed four new high-intensity activated crosswalk (HAWK) signals. Signals were installed on both sides of the Gratiot median at Quinn Road and Laurel Street. The HAWK signals remain dark until activated by a pedestrian, at which point the signal will flash yellow, turn solid yellow, then solid red, indicating to traffic to slow and stop. Traffic can begin again once signals flash red and pedestrians have cleared.
Another pedestrian-friendly project recently completed in Macomb County was the installation of a traffic island and pedestrian-activated signals on 12 Mile Road in Warren between Macomb Community College’s South Campus and Wayne State University’s new Advanced Technology Education Center. As a result, students and SMART bus riders are able to conveniently traverse the five lanes of traffic.
While roads are the portals that take us anywhere we want to go, they often serve as impassible dividers within a community. For example, a store may be within eyesight and walking distance, but crossing eight lanes of traffic may be nearly impossible or simply impractical if the nearest intersection is a half mile away. These projects increase the convenience for anyone trying to get around by bike or on foot – something that is becoming more popular with not only young professionals, but also senior citizens who want to stay in their community without relying on cars for transportation.
Walkability plays into the major placemaking movement many communities are striving to adopt. The city of Roseville has taken on an initiative to create a pedestrian-accessible business district at the Utica and Gratiot junction. The Roseville City Council passed an ordinance that creates a town center overlay district for this area which could feature landscaped streets, restaurants with outdoor seating and a mix of commercial and residential areas. The council also passed other ordinances allowing for more sidewalks, less parking spots and more bicycle parking.
Both Roseville and Eastpointe were recently declared Development Ready Communities by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Last October, Eastpointe hosted a charrette where it invited students from Lawrence Tech and the George Brown College’s Institute without Boundaries program from Toronto to brainstorm redevelopment ideas for the city. Of the many ideas that were generated, some were to turn the Stephens and Gratiot intersection into a walkable area of commerce and to add bike lanes on Kelly Road.
Bike lanes are soon to become a reality for the city of Warren. Warren officials approved funding for a non-motorized pathway along Van Dyke Avenue that will include a dedicated lane, median enhancements, a decorative crosswalk and sidewalk ramps. Once completed, there could be an opportunity to extend the path to other neighboring communities. The goal is to increase pedestrian and bike traffic to lead to more revenue for businesses in the area.
The next time you find yourself sitting in traffic in Macomb County, keep your eye out for some of the exciting new developments that are coming down the pike.