Ypsilanti officials to explore traffic-calming measures on four major city roads

Ypsilanti city staff and their area partners will be testing design concepts for calming traffic and improving pedestrian and cyclist safety on four stretches of road this summer.

The city is collaborating with the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS) and St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor to study possible traffic-calming measures on Second Avenue between Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street; Cross Street between Prospect Road and River Street; Prospect Road from Cross to the northern end of the city limits; and North Mansfield Street from Washtenaw Avenue to Congress Street.

These areas were targeted due to recurring complaints about speeding and other dangerous driver behavior, and repeated requests to improve safety along those routes.

Bonnie Wessler, project manager for Ypsilanti's Department of Public Services, says all those areas are "higher-capacity streets that carry a relatively large volume of traffic and are major routes in and out of the city or neighborhoods in the community."

"Vehicle speeds definitely have an impact on the feeling of safety people have about being able to walk or bike someplace," she says. "And vehicle speeds absolutely contribute to the level of injury in a crash. We want all legal users of the road to feel safe."

The effort was modeled on a similar project WATS did in Chelsea.

"They did low-cost tactical interventions on several streets there and partnered with St. Joe Chelsea," Wessler says. "It was such a success that we wanted to duplicate it here."

It made sense for the local health care system to partner on the project since so many hospital workers live in or travel through Ypsilanti, she says.

Wessler says city staff will mail flyers to solicit opinions from residents in the target areas about proposed solutions. As the list of treatments is narrowed down to the best for each area, the neighborhoods will receive a second mailing.

"We don't want to put something on somebody's street that they don't want or doesn't work, or maybe they've seen elsewhere and don't believe it'll work here," Wessler says. "A lot of these treatments we're testing are relatively new in the field of traffic safety, maybe 10 years old or so."

She says when roundabouts were first built in the area, they seemed new and unfamiliar, and some of the new traffic-calming treatments may also seem novel.

For instance, a "gateway" treatment already used in the city uses pedestrian signage on either side of the roadway and thin plastic "knock-down posts" attached to the ground that spring back even after being hit once or twice.

"This visually makes the roadway feel narrower, even though the traffic lanes are perfectly sufficient for vehicle traffic," Wessler says. "But because it visually narrows the road, it calls the driver's attention to the crosswalk where pedestrians are legally able to cross and helps the driver drive slowly and make their way through carefully."

Project updates will be available at miwats.org/route-ypsilanti.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of the city of Ypsilanti.
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