(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 10, 2017)
Lathrup Village, MI – Major road projects take years, if not decades, of planning before a shovel even goes into the ground. Southfield Road may eventually get a facelift and road diet, a proposal in the works for over 25 years. Likely there will be at least another five years before construction begins, but with an environmental assessment underway it is further along in the process than ever.
The Road Commission for Oakland County has jurisdiction over Southfield Road, and they are considering a major overall from Mt. Vernon to 13 Mile, a strip that runs though Southfield and Lathrup Village with a tiny area extending north of 13 Mile into the Village of Beverly Hills and Southfield Twp.
The idea is to reduce the lanes to one in each direction and add a median with turnarounds, turning it into a scenic boulevard.
An open house held Wednesday at Lathrup Village City Hall was part of the environmental assessment phase of the project, to get initial public feedback on the design and its impacts on surrounding neighborhoods and businesses.
The boulevard design helps with safety, traffic flow and congestion, local business visibility and pedestrian and non-notarized transportation safety.
“This removes left turn conflicts and accidents from drivers changing lanes,” O’Brien said. “The indirect lefts allow more green time so there is less stop and go for traffic. It’s also safer because you don’t have the left turns out of businesses, so cars are not crossing three lanes of traffic.”
He explained that the Environmental Impact Assessment is the phase where the Road Commission identifies existing and future problems with the initial plans, including matters of traffic congestion, safety , non-motorized use, and consistency with local road design.
After this phase, the Road Commission would need to begin seeking state and federal funds to conduct the project. This process could take years, or maybe never happen. But the initial planning and Environmental Impact Assessment are necessary for the grant writing process. The potential cost of the project will also be estimated once the study is complete.
The results of the assessment will likely be complete in about one year to 18 months, O’Brien said. “The time to construction will be at least five years, if not more,” he said.
The construction itself would be done in one-mile increments, with each phase taking about a year.
Residents and business owners in attendance had questions mainly about funding and how construction would impact them.
O’Brien said that the Road Commission is responsible for certain main roads, such as Southfield, and that local street repairs are done by the cities.
Lathrup Village City Manager Andy Potter is excited about the potential for Southfield Road. “I think about, how do you make it more attractive? How do you help the businesses? With a road diet you’ll see an increase in property values, an increase in the walkability. And it will help identify our city center.”
“I’m thankful Oakland County Road Commission is moving forward with these concepts that have been in the works for over 20 years,” Potter added.
For more on the Road Commission of Oakland County, visit their website at www.rcocweb.org.