When the American Center for Mobility (ACM) moved into the Willow Run airport area in Ypsilanti Township in late 2017, roads in the area were reconfigured to accommodate expected traffic increases. But the changes have also prompted numerous resident concerns, which the West Willow Neighborhood Traffic Safety committee has been working to address in recent months.
Before road reconfigurations went into effect, there were a number of public meetings so the Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC) and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) could get the word out about what those changes would look like.
WCRC communications manager Emily Kizer says an increase in "cut-through" traffic was a concern, though traffic studies since then haven't shown a dramatic increase in cars cutting through side streets in the West Willow area. However, area residents had additional concerns, so WCRC suggested that the New West Willow Neighborhood Association (NWWNA) coordinate with Ypsilanti Township to form an ad hoc committee to study traffic and road safety issues in the neighborhood.
The committee has been meeting roughly once a month since summer of 2018 and regularly reports back to the road commission and township officials.
Of special concern is the area where the neighborhood meets Michigan Avenue and I-94 near Dorset Avenue. A teenage pedestrian was hit by a car while trying to cross Michigan Avenue in 2016, and the area has been the site of a number of serious car crashes in the last 18 months, including a three-car crash in September that left a victim hospitalized in critical condition.
"That is an area that has to be addressed," says township trustee Monica Ross-Williams. "There's too much traffic, too many individuals. There's a lot going on at that corner."
Currently, there is a pedestrian walkway and an island to help neighborhood residents cross over Michigan Avenue into other parts of the township along the Ford Road corridor. However, committee members reported that flexible cones are often knocked over and lying down, suggesting that cars are riding over parts of the island multiple times a week.
The committee has suggested a few different ways to reroute pedestrians, including creating a traffic circle. However, any changes of that nature would have to be made through MDOT, as Michigan Avenue and the entrance ramp to I-94 are under MDOT jurisdiction.
Committee members are also working on measures to encourage drivers to use the service drives around the neighborhood rather than cutting through low-speed-limit residential streets. Two committee members are collecting signatures to install speed humps on Nash Avenue north of Tyler Road, and the committee has also suggested lowering the speed limit on Tyler from 35 to 30 miles per hour to encourage drivers to go around the neighborhood rather than drive through it.
Supplemental lighting at the corner of Onandaga Avenue and the service drive in the neighborhood has also been suggested. Traffic safety committee member Norma Gentile says that while there is a light at the signal on Michigan Avenue in that area, drivers turning off Michigan Avenue into the neighborhood at Onandaga are "crossing fast and blind" since the intersection is dark. She says she's nearly hit a bicycle in that area. Township officials in attendance at the traffic committee's last meeting on March 14 said they would bring the matter up with township engineers.
Ypsilanti Township residents concerned with traffic safety in the West Willow neighborhood are welcome to attend future committee meetings. NWWNA president JoAnn McCollum says she will post a notice of future meetings on Nextdoor and the NWWNA Facebook page. For more information, contact McCollum at (734) 845-7362 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She has served as innovation and jobs/development news writer for Concentrate since early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to Driven. You may reach her at email@example.com.
Photos by Sarah Rigg.