Besides the removal of a traffic lane and the addition of a bike lane, the road diet will look to create shorter crossing distances for pedestrians.
FERNDALE/PLEASANT RIDGE — The cities of Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge are moving forward toward a major change to their sections of Woodward Avenue.
At the end of February, the Ferndale City Council and Pleasant Ridge City Commission both approved a Transportation Alternatives Program grant application for their Woodward Avenue Complete Streets Project — Ferndale at its Feb. 22 meeting and Pleasant Ridge at its Feb. 23 meeting.
The Complete Streets Project has been described by both cities as something that’s intended to improve safety along Woodward Avenue while also offering more modes of transportation.
The project would remove a lane on both northbound and southbound Woodward Avenue and replace them with bike lanes and parking as a buffer. The road diet would allow for shorter crossing distances for pedestrians by at least 8-10 feet, as well as spot improvements for wider sidewalks, transit stops and green stormwater infrastructure.
According to Ferndale’s data, from east to west on Woodward, only 6% of right of way is dedicated to people and sidewalks, which City Planner Justin Lyons stated has led to some safety issues in the past. The travel lanes take up 45%, parking is 11%, the median is 35% and building frontage is 3%.
The city’s data noted more than 900 crashes on Woodward Avenue from 2016 to 2019, a lack of comfort biking and walking, long wait times for pedestrians to cross the roadway, and crosswalk distances of greater than 300 feet from each other.
Ferndale also conducted a feasibility study that looked at how traffic would be affected by removing the traffic lanes, and officials felt the results showed that the modifications would meet the level of service they require.
“With all the engagement we’ve received, it’s just continued to show that Woodward is a pedestrian and bicycling barrier in both communities and for the region,” Lyons said. “During that Ferndale Moves process … Woodward was very much noted as a high stress street for bicycling and walking.”
Lyons added that a recent survey of businesses also noted the same safety concerns and contained support for removing a lane to improve safety conditions.
“If safety is a stated goal for the project … and accessible transportation options are a pillar of the city’s strategic plan, why should we continue to accept the status quo is kind of what our mindset has been,” he said.
The change on Woodward would happen at the same time as a Michigan Department of Transportation project in 2022. That project will fund and manage standard asphalt milling and Americans with Disabilities Act modifications like crosswalk ramps.
If the timeline stays on schedule, the projects will occur from April to November. The last time Woodward was resurfaced was more than 20 years ago.
“Though we didn’t get to choose when MDOT was going to resurface Woodward, we do get an opportunity to set the table for the future and potentially think about how space can be used more for people in the future,” Lyons said. “MDOT has noted that in the future they would like to do a full reconstruction, which would include things like full sidewalk replacement and things like that. That’s more of a 10-15 year project on the road.”
Ferndale has estimated the total project cost to be $3,998,740. It is requesting TAP grant funding in the amount of $2,544,653. After grants come into play, the city expects the cost to be $1,298,567.
For Pleasant Ridge, city documents state that it’s requesting $272,003 in TAP grant funding, and its expected total cost out of pocket will be $155,430. Commissioner Bret Scott said in a text message that the city is excited to take part in improving mobility for bicyclists between Pleasant Ridge and Ferndale.
“These kinds of changes will help people use their day differently as more people work from home, while preserving good traffic flow,” he said. “Ferndale has been a great partner in bringing the concept to life.”
Scott added in a phone call, “We’re very happy for bike paths and other forms of transportation to begin to filter their way along Woodward, and the Complete Streets Project allows us to plan for the future where people are walking, biking and using cars.”
Ferndale Mayor Melanie Piana shared her disappointment that the overall project couldn’t include everything they wanted, including wider sidewalks and more stormwater and green infrastructure, but she felt it was necessary that the city leverage this opportunity with MDOT also completing a project at the same time.
“(MDOT’s construction is) gonna happen regardless,” she said. “We can either work with them and make some safety improvements that get us a little bit further along, or we can wait another 10-15 years to do it all and we’ll probably require a bond based off of what is needed. I think council has expressed over the last year they’re willing to at least explore this idea, and if we get the money, we get the money and figure out the final costs as they come.”
It was stated during Ferndale’s meeting that though this application has been approved now, the city is not committing any budget dollars at the moment and no design is final.