Chelsea relaunches initiative aimed at calming traffic and supporting non-motorized transportation

Temporary street treatments designed to slow car traffic and prioritize non-motorized traffic will return to Chelsea this fall with the relaunch of an initiative called Chelsea POP.

The city of Chelsea, Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS), and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System have partnered to relaunch Chelsea POP, which originated as a 30-day initiative last September. When it returns this fall, project organizers will use low-cost materials to install new street treatments along East and West Middle Street, East Street, Washington Street, and Madison Street. Like last year's initiative, the temporary improvements are motivated by safety concerns.

"The project is an effort to really create more of a multi-modal transportation system," says Emily Lake, an associate transportation planner at WATS. "The city is very interested in slowing and calming traffic, and making neighborhood streets safe for pedestrians and bicyclists."

Some of the treatments from the original pilot included enhanced crosswalks, bike lanes, shared road markings, striped parking, and wayfinding signs. Lake says a public survey showed strong support for painted curb extensions, which were also an integral part of the demonstration project.

"Instead of a traditional curb bump-out in the streets, the city painted an area where cars were not allowed. This sort of narrows the road width, which research has shown can slow traffic," she says.

This year Chelsea residents can expect to see some of the same types of temporary street improvements. The city will also potentially introduce some speed cushions, which are similar to speed bumps, but made of rubber and can be moved as needed. 

As the relaunch gears up, the city of Chelsea and WATS will be holding two public engagement events this summer to get feedback on the treatments implemented in the first year. The results will be used to determine what permanent improvements are needed. 

Lake encourages all residents to weigh in on the pilot by attending the public events or by filling out an online survey. She explains that one of the challenges in transportation planning is that there have to be documented crashes in an area in order to really implement safety changes. However, she says that approach "misses all the near-misses" that Chelsea residents might see on a daily basis.

"This [project] is going to affect the streets that residents live on and the roads that their children bike to school on," Lake says. "Once permanent changes are made it's sometimes harder to make adjustments, so this is a valuable chance for people to really have a say in what their community will look like."

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at jaishreeedit@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of WATS.