$1 million streetscape to give Ypsilanti's Cross Street a whole new gleam

A 10-block stretch of W. and E. Cross Street in downtown Ypsilanti is about to get the shoots of a new tree canopy and other niceties in a streetscape enhancement project that has just broken ground. The $1 million project plan includes about 80 new trees, the city's first LED streetlights, replacement of old asphalt, stamped concrete crosswalks, rain gardens, and traffic bump-outs in Depot Town, according to Tim Colbeck, director of the Ypsilanti DDA.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) committed $760,000 in funding, the source of which was a federal interstate transportation enhancement authority (ISTEA) grant. The city contributed $100,000 and the DDA just over $80,000.

"It's a big face-lift and it's just going to make that whole stretch of Cross Street look a lot better and actually flow a lot better," Colbeck says. "When we approve the crosswalks it's going to make it a lot safer for pedestrians too."

The work should be largely complete by June's end. Tree planting will occur this fall, and in deference to arborists' best practice will consist of four different tree varieties. Thus if blight affects one type of tree, it won't take down all the others on the street.

And even with new lights, the peek at Ypsilanti from outer space will be a shade bit dimmer. To go with upgrades at Eastern Michigan University's campus, the fixtures are dark-sky compliant – meaning the light is focused downward and won't bleed into the sky. "It was very important to Eastern because they have the observatory on campus and you lose a lot of the effects of the observatory when you have the light escaping upwards," he explains.

The only section of Cross Street not under the revamp's umbrella is the part from Huron Street through the bridge. The city is working with MDOT on obtaining separate funds for that improvement, a costly one, says Colbeck.

Source: Tim Colbeck, director of the Ypsilanti DDA
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar