Reimagine Washtenaw implements more walk, bike, bus options

The remaking of Washtenaw Avenue, the busiest throughway in Washtenaw County in terms of traffic volume, has begun. Reimagine Washtenaw, a coalition of representatives from the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and Pittsfield and Ypsilanti townships, and other organizations, is using a portion of the county's $3 million HUD Community Challenge Planning grant to hire consultants to study and recommend options to make the corridor friendlier to all transportation forms and improve the efficiency of public transit.

"Part of the challenge right now is there are so many bus stops along the route," says Nathan Voght, project manager for Reimagine Washtenaw. "Because of the corridor lacking sidewalks, you have to have more bus stops to let people get to those stops. And if we can consolidate those by working with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, it actually makes the service more efficient."

Smith Group JJR and Parsons Brinkerhoff will be doing a right of way study, designing AATA bus stops, and recommending locations for additional bike lanes, sidewalks, and other non-motorized facilities, including possibly mid-block crossings, according to Nathan Voght, project manager for Reimagine Washtenaw. The study will wrap up in September of 2013.

Meanwhile, MDOT's addition of sidewalks on both sides of Washtenaw underneath the U.S. 23 overpass is expected to be complete by November, Voght says.

And the construction of Arbor Hills Crossing, a 90,000-square-foot office and retail center across from Whole Foods is under way. "What's great about that is that [the city of] Ann Arbor modified some of their zoning regulations to help push the vision for the corridor," making it better-suited for alternative transportation methods, says Voght. "They for example required parking to be not in the front yard – so it would be in the side yard, or the rear yard – and required the buildings to have a maximum setback from the street instead of  the traditional minimum setback." The city has an easement for a wide sidewalk and an AATA transit stop in front of the center.

"That's the irony of these corridors, is we built them thinking they're so great, you can get in your car and get to any of these businesses, but it's gotten to the point where you tolerate the corridor instead of experience it in a positive way. We can change that," Voght says.

Source:  Nathan Voght, project manager for Reimagine Washtenaw
Writer: Tanya Muzumdar
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