Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Huron River Drive Public Workshop

4. April 2007 • Juliew
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Huron River Drive

Wednesday, April 4, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Forsythe Middle School Media Center
1655 Newport Road, Ann Arbor

The City of Ann Arbor has just begun a study to develop alternatives for improving Huron River Drive from N. Main Street to Bird Road. This section of Huron River Drive is in very poor condition. Complexities exist that make repaving for continued use by motor vehicles a complex project. The issues include the vast amount of drainage that flows to the road from Bird Hills, the interests of widening for multi-use vs. degradation of sensitive environmental habitat, and the proximity to the river. This calls for a reevaluation of the standard practices for improving this roadway.

The goal of this project is to strike a balance among many different users (motorists, joggers, hikers, cyclists, paddlers, etc.) that also considers the ecological diversity along this scenic section of Huron River Drive. Various alternatives are being considered. These range from closing this section of the road to car traffic, to repaving the road as it exists today.

We are seeking input from the community about this very important project. Please come and share your ideas with us.

  1. On the Citizen Survey thread, Anna wondered:

    “Closing Huron River Drive to cars?! Would the people who live there get some kind of special dispensation? That is the weirdest thing I’ve heard in a long time.”

    Quick note on “people who live there”. The Project Team stressed that there are no private entrances (now that Hilltop Camp is being acquired by the City) along the 1.2 mile stretch of HRD under consideration.

    Anyway, I attended the public meeting last night at Forsythe Middle School. I’d estimate the crowd at about 120 people, despite much grousing among commenters about the breadth and timeliness of notification about the meeting.

    I left 20 minutes before the end. But I think it’s fair to say that notice was served quite forcefully and eloquently, that Huron River Drive will not be closed (permanently or partially) without a huge battle.

    To me, the most interesting tidbit: it was claimed that Lloyd Carr likes to drive in to town via Huron River Drive even though it’s longer, just because “it gets his day started right.”

    Even as an avid cyclist, who would personally benefit directly from the transformation of HRD into a non-motorized path closed to cars, I felt like the presentation was more a pitch for that option, as opposed to a neutral presentation of options. For one thing, the first option after Do Nothing was listed out as Closing the Road. For another, the only option the Project Team took the trouble to sketch up for overlay on a photo of Huron River Drive was a non-motorized path (three lanes—two for bikes and one for peds). Where were the sketch-ups of a reconstructed road on the existing footprint or a reconstructed road widened for bike lanes? Why was it necessary to attach the word ‘challenging’ each an every time the option of road reconstruction came up? Finally, the 11” x 22” annotated map distributed to attendees depicted just the 1.2 miles of HRD under consideration, which meant that the neighborhoods who use HRD as a commuting option were literally not ‘on the map’. It was nice to have that close up view, but the reverse side of that gigantic sheet of paper was blank. Where was the map showing the larger context of HRD with respect to the western continuation to Dexter and its connection to downtown?

    What I found most disappointing about the discussion was that when the Project Team was challenged to articulate the criteria by which the various options would be evaluated, none could be described. We were invited literally to “stay tuned.”

    Some additional questions I would like eventually to get answered:

    (1) City workers were out on HRD last spring doing survey-ish kind of work for what they believed was a road reconstruction project on the existing footprint TO START SUMMER 2007. Were they mistaken? If they were mistaken, then what were they doing? If they weren’t mistaken then when was a decision made to go through a public process that included permanent road closure as an option?

    (2) Since I arrived in AA ten years ago, I’ve heard talk of closing down HRD to motor traffic maybe 3-4 days a summer. When did this idea morph into a permanent road closure?

    (3) City staff at the presentation said they did not know what the budget was for the project because they didn’t know where the money was coming from, and if it could be matched by federal dollars. Didn’t the Streets Millage pass in November 2006? Doesn’t that automatically carry a federal match?

       —HD    Apr. 5 '07 - 04:57PM    #
  2. Thanks for going to the meeting and reporting back, HD.

    With regard to your question #3, I would venture that neither Street Millage money nor federal matching road money can be used to close down a road and build a path. So if they’ve already kind of made up their minds that they want to close the road, it would stand to reason that they don’t know where they’re going to get the money.

    I don’t have particularly strong feelings about this issue. It just makes me cringe to see people doing stupid things. Closing a road always sounds like a great idea. I mean, the cars that were on it just vanish, right? No more traffic. No more pollution. Everyone’s safer. How could you argue with that?

    Using myself as an example, I calculate that I drive to Pinckney to visit my old man 3 or 4 times a month. I can take any of several routes, but I like to mix it up, so sometimes I take 23, sometimes Dexter-Ann Arbor, sometimes Miller, sometimes Huron River Drive. I also go to Dexter a few times a month, taking a similar variety of routes there and back. And sometimes I even take the slow road to Chelsea, via Huron River Drive, and then the back roads from Dexter. I even take Huron River Drive to get to the Meijer or Lowe’s on Zeeb Road. So I’d guess I drive that stretch or road, purely recreationally, purely by choice, never as a commuter, four or five times a month. If they close it I’ll shrug and take some other route. No big deal. The marginal cost of one more person on 23 or Miller Road is zilch, right? Except that hundreds and hundreds of other people (besides me and Lloyd Carr) are also going to shrug and take some other route. No one NEEDS to take Huron River Drive, right? So what happens to Miller? What happens to 23? What happens to Dexter-Ann Arbor? They get more crowded. People sit in traffic and burn gas. They wring their hands. They demand more lanes on those other roads. Gosh, could there have been an external cost to closing Huron River Drive?

    Like I said, I don’t really give a damn. I commute on foot and only drive recreationally. But sometimes watching Ann Arbor function is just embarrassing, like watching a dog lick its balls. The dog’s not hurting itself, it’s not hurting you, but you can’t help yelling at it to stop.

       —Parking Structure Dude!    Apr. 5 '07 - 06:01PM    #
  3. There are grant programs via SAFETEA-LU that would probably fund a pathway or at least a significant portion of it. As for the costs, if they have to rebuild 1.2 miles of road, that’s a pretty big chunk of change for a road that doesn’t seem to be the most direct route to anywhere. You have maintenance costs in the winter to plow it. Let’s look at it this way, if there wasn’t a road there today, would you put one in that location? If the answer is no, then why spend a million bucks to rebuild it (or however much its going to cost – I’m guessing a million bucks is in the ballpark)?

       —John Q.    Apr. 5 '07 - 08:26PM    #
  4. I didn’t attend the meeting, but I’m guessing that this is the kind of problem they had with the formerly scenic Kalamazoo Street stretch between Lansing and East Lansing. The city would have liked to do a non-invasive resurfacing/bike path kind of thing, maintaining traffic, BUT THE STATE AND FEDS REFUSED TO FUND IT.

    You see, the only way to get matching funds would have been to meet federal standards, in other words, build up the street on a huge embankment to get it completely out of the flood plain, tear out the old bridge and replace it with a much larger, wider, higher bridge, and pretty much ruin the whole area.

    The city (East Lansing) resisted doing this in the 1970s and 1980s, which meant that all roadwork had to be done with scarce city resources. But I guess they eventually gave up. Last I saw, the bridge has been replaced with a much wider, higher bridge; a lot of the woods were torn out to put the road up on a big embankment, and the drive or walk or bike ride through there is much less pleasant than it was.

    Indeed, if you go there today, you might wonder why anybody ever thought it was scenic enough to be worth fighting over. You’d need to look at old pictures of the area to understand it.

    This section of Huron River Drive is right next to the Huron River and undoubtedly subject to flooding. Federal and state regs probably require that it be raised (how many feet?) and widened and cut deeply into the hill on the other side. Either that, or it’s not eligible to be funded.

    To reconstruct the road, I assume, means either (1) sacrificing the scenery, or (2) using local dollars to fund it. And those local dollars are about to get much scarcer, as the State Senate majority is intent on drowning government in the bathtub.

    As far as I can tell, the meeting consensus was, screw the scenery, we want to drive our cars there.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Apr. 5 '07 - 10:00PM    #
  5. Yeah, I think Larry has it right. If the city does anything with that road, they will have to bring it up to current safety and environmental standards, which pretty much precludes doing anything with the road. My husband said he was at a meeting several years ago where Csaba Csere (of Car and Driver magazine fame) was talking about Huron River Drive and he said then that the city would never be able to redo the road because of more stringent regulations. Perhaps, as Larry said, we could do it with local funds, but it isn’t exactly the right budgetary times to be doing this sort of thing, especially since it is a “non-necessary” road. Unfortunately, just leaving it as is means that it soon won’t even be good for bicycles since the surface will be so bad.

       —Juliew    Apr. 5 '07 - 11:25PM    #
  6. Closing the road to cars would be a wildly unpopular measure. (OTOH it really must be widened: cars and bikes do not coexist peacefully on HRD). I think the city could only get away with it if it really is a cash issue. In which case, the city would have to be completely honest and up-front about whatever money problems there are. If they don’t talk about the money, then it immediately becomes a bikes-vs-cars issue. In fact it sounds like people already think it is a bikes-vs-cars issue. (Though I could be wrong.)

    It sounds like they’re worried about the money, and this was a dry run of the cheapest possible solution. IMO this was backwards—they should have looked at the money first, then gone to the public with the realistic options. Maybe they were just trying to save themselves the trouble (understandable). But now if the cash comes up short, it looks bad—people will just think “Oh, yeah, right—you’re just trying to ban cars from Ann Arbor—how typical” etc. Hopefully I’m wrong about that, but I’m just calling things as I see them.

    Personally I think it would be a terrible idea to close it to cars completely, but the road must be improved one way or the other. I’d be willing to cut down trees/bushes on the side nearest the river in order to do it, but I doubt I speak for anyone else on that.

    The citizenry might not understand what the real options are here. It would be much better if the plans were more detailed and each had a price tag.

       —Young Urban Amateur    Apr. 6 '07 - 02:57AM    #
  7. How about $1.3 million for a road that has about 2300 trips per day? Ridiculous. Even if the feds pick up 80%, that’s an outrageous amount to spend on a road that handles that little traffic. This sounds like the politics are about who uses the road, not how many people use the road.

    (ann arbor news...)

       —John Q,    Apr. 6 '07 - 08:15AM    #
  8. John Q. Excellent point. I never thought about it that way. Personally, I think they should close the road to cars because of the cost to repair. I’ll bet the money could be better spent upgrading alternative routes.

    YUA, you are absolutely right. They didn’t crunch the numbers first.

       —Cooler Heads    Apr. 6 '07 - 05:57PM    #
  9. That stretch would be an excellent one way road – you wouldn’t have to widen it any, non-motorized traffic would co-exist more easily, and people who were out for a recreational drive could still do their thing at least one way.

    There’s historical precedent for one other scenic drive reverting to nature. Cedar Bend Drive does a one-way from Broadway down to Island Park – it’s very slow going, and carries no where near the traffic it once did. Here’s a historical account:

    “As many as nine hundred have been counted passing over this boulevard on a beautiful spring or fall day. It is a favorite walk and drive for the students in our community as well as the citizens.”

    (google maps...)

       —Edward Vielmetti    Apr. 7 '07 - 10:00AM    #
  10. I don’t see why 1.3 million ridiculous for 2300 trips a day on a road that actually goes somewhere — over 5 years, it’s only 31 cents a trip. By that criteria, most of Ann Arbor’s cul-de-sacs ought to be closed or privately maintained by homeowners.

       —Anna    Apr. 7 '07 - 08:15PM    #
  11. I like the one-way idea.

       —Young Urban Amateur    Apr. 7 '07 - 09:07PM    #
  12. Re: One-way

    Which way? (If forced to choose, I’d pick from west to east, based on the idea that the Main HRD connection in that direction works fairly well).

    And what would you think of one commenter’s suggestion from Monday night that falls into a quasi-one-way category: put a stoplight at each end, thus allowing alternating one-way in each direction. Maximum wait was theorized (guessed?) to be a maximum of 5 minutes.

    I’m assuming that implicit in folks’ one-way suggestions would be that HRD becomes one lane for one-way motor traffic, and one lane for (two-way) non-motorized traffic.

    It’s not in the one-way category, but another suggestion from a commenter last Monday night as a technique to avoid widening the road while still offering greater separation of motor traffic from non-motorized traffic: construct a boardwalk on stilts along the river side of the road similar to what has been built over in the Bandemer Park area.

    Perhaps the Saturday 21 April 9am-12noon event will fill in some crucial details and data. HRD will be shut down for this 3-hour period so that folks can gather at Barton Dam parking lot and walk/cycle up and down HRD on tours led by the Project Team.

       —HD    Apr. 7 '07 - 10:18PM    #
  13. I like the one-way idea, and agree that it should be one-way INTO town.

    Immediately banning trucks from that stretch (if it hasn’t been done already) would reduce the wear on the pavement, and slow its deterioration.

       —Larry Kestenbaum    Apr. 8 '07 - 02:48AM    #
  14. Cedar Bend Drive was closed to all traffic down to Island Park decades ago. It is now in two separate pieces: one piece goes south from Broadway, and the other piece goes north from Fuller.

       —David Cahill    Apr. 8 '07 - 05:57PM    #
  15. “Cedar Bend Drive was closed to all traffic down to Island Park decades ago.”

    I’ve ridden that stretch in a car, and I moved to Ann Arbor in 1994.

       —Bruce Fields    Apr. 8 '07 - 09:11PM    #
  16. Then you took your life in your hands, Bruce.

    Cedar Bend is, and has been for many years, not only closed but prominently marked as such. We’ve been here since 1986, and it was closed then. And it is certainly closed now.

       —David Cahill    Apr. 8 '07 - 09:47PM    #
  17. Hm. Well I might be confused about which bit of road we’re talking about. There’s a now-closed dirt road that connects Cedar Bend Drive to the end of Island Drive, which was opened at least part of the year—but I don’t know whether that was called Cedar Bend or Island. Google maps (confusingly) shows it as still there.

       —Bruce Fields    Apr. 8 '07 - 10:25PM    #
  18. Well, Google maps still show New Orleans before Katrina. 8-)

       —David Cahill    Apr. 8 '07 - 11:56PM    #
  19. Hmmm, I’ve also driven Cedar Bend Drive from Broadway all the way down to Island Park on occasion, and, while walking, seen other people doing the same. It looks phenomenally well-maintained for a road that’s been closed for 20 years. I’m talking about the switch-backing one-way -downhill dirt road – I assume the connection to Fuller’s Cedar Bend Dr. is separate.

       —Murph.    Apr. 9 '07 - 03:00AM    #
  20. Next time, folks should ponder the prominent “No Outlet” sign at Cedar Bend and Broadway.

       —David Cahill    Apr. 9 '07 - 03:52AM    #
  21. In high school, we used to go up to Cedar Bend to “hang out.” Sometime in the 80s, it was “closed.” As I recall, the connection used to be more than a somewhat difficult dirt road. So I think everyone might be right. It is closed, but not entirely impassable if you really want to get to Island Park.

       —Juliew    Apr. 9 '07 - 04:24AM    #
  22. I was a passenger on a trip down Cedar Bend from Broadway sometime in the past 12 years. I can’t recall which route we took but I vividly recall the feeling as if my life could end in short order if the driver took the wrong turn. I’m sure that the road was marked closed or in some way discouraged any use by motor vehicles.

    More info. on the area here:

       —John Q.    Apr. 9 '07 - 05:29AM    #
  23. The truth comes out! Cedar Bend used to be known as a lovers’ lane when Juliew was in high school. “Hang out” indeed…

       —David Cahill    Apr. 9 '07 - 05:59AM    #
  24. Stating the obvious: “No Outlet” is not equivalent to “Do not drive on this road.”

       —Kelli    Apr. 10 '07 - 12:28AM    #
  25. Indeed, but the “no outlet” sign is posted where Cedar Bend joins Broadway. You can still drive along Cedar Bend from Broadway for a substantial distance until access is blocked. See also the “no outlet” sign where Leaird meets Broadway.

       —David Cahill    Apr. 10 '07 - 12:56AM    #
  26. (OTOH it really must be widened: cars and bikes do not coexist peacefully on HRD)

    Well, I would like to see it widened, but I ride it quite often as is, and I think it would be reasonably OK if the pavement weren’t in such god-awful shape — the crumbling blacktop and pot-holes make it impossible for bikes to ride near the edge of the road for most of that stretch, which makes it much more difficult for cars and bikes to co-exist there. If there are 4 choices:

    1. Close to vehicle traffic.
    2. Close to vehicle traffic in 1 direction.
    3. Bring up ‘to code’ while destroying the scenic value.
    4. Repave at the current width and leave it open to vehicle traffic.

    I’d definitely go with #4.

       —mw    Apr. 10 '07 - 04:25AM    #
  27. Can you repave at current width? Is that allowed by law?

       —Cooler Heads    Apr. 10 '07 - 07:05PM    #
  28. Based on comments earlier in the thread, I’d been working on the assumption that if it’s local money, then it can remain the same width … but that in order to qualify for federal funding, there might be widening and raising requirements (City staff last Monday said they did not know for certain that federal funding carried these requirements).

    One of the negatives associated with the ‘repaving at current width’ option is that without a reconstruction of the road bed and drain tiles under the bed (which have collapsed over time), the repaving will not last as long as it would, if the water from the slope was led in an orderly fashion under the road to the river.

    So the City’s saying, “Look, why don’t we think about getting a smooth surface that will last and last and last, instead just slapping some asphalt down.” This would require ‘reconstruction’, which is way more expensive short-term than repaving, but probably (maybe?) represents a more fiscally responsible option long term. So applying for federal dollars becomes an attractive thought. But, wait, federal dollars might come with requirements to widen and raise the road bed, which might wreck some or all of the aesthetic value of the road.

    To me, the attraction of the one-way options are that they might offer a way to comply with federal requirements to widen a lane, without having to widen the actual roadbed. So conceivably, federal dollars might help defray the cost of reconstuction of a one-way option, without the downside of scenic/environmental destruction. But that depends on a better understanding of which federal requirements would actually apply in the case of HRD.

    I find it hard to choose between the four options that mw lists without clearer information about how much each would cost in local dollars.

       —HD    Apr. 10 '07 - 09:13PM    #
  29. Typically codes allow you to maintain conditions whether they meet current codes or not, as the lack of maintenance can make a condition more dangerous (stated above), so I would have to say that this stretch of road should be able to be re-paved as it is. I get the sense that the city is, appropriately, asking questions before they re-pave so they get their full investment in the asphalt.

    It is similar to the frap over the M14 exit onto Barton Drive; that is allowed to stay open as it is (a no fooling around, 15 mph exit into oncoming traffic in adjacent lane) even if it were re-paved, which it also desperately needs. As explained by Joe Corradino (sp?) the traffic consultant, it is not allowed to be upgraded at all unless by doing so it meets 100% of MDOT’s code for rural highways. With limited real estate available to work with this interchange can only be made somewhat safer, possibly safe enough though to meet the urban highway standards. However meeting the rural standards would decimate a neighborhood, which is why nothing has been done.

    I for one would like to see HRD kept open two ways, and have people drive slowly, and play nice with the bicycles. The best decision for cities to make with respect to traffic patterns is to offer choices. When we have choices for our travel patterns we relieve the traffic system of a little bit of pressure. The more we eliminate roads or highway exits the more we focus all of the traffic onto fewer, and then more congested, places. The M14 / US23 loop around A2 is a perfect example of the problem. It is approximately a 26 mile loop served by only 9 exits (including Zeeb Road).

       —abc    Apr. 10 '07 - 09:22PM    #
  30. HD

    I was typing when you got in and I think your points about getting federal help are true; we can pay to re-pave it ourselves but if we want to get Uncle Sam to help we may have to give him some ‘upgrade’ in return. I wasn’t aware of the underground issues that need to be addresses as I was unable to attend recent meeting. I will be there though on the 21st of April to learn more.


       —abc    Apr. 10 '07 - 09:30PM    #
  31. When we have real choices between transportation modes, the overall system experiences relief.

    Giving drivers more paths to choose between doesn’t relieve congestion in the long term…in most cases it actually ends up increasing it. We can’t pave our way out of traffic problems (unless we’re willing to commit an insanely large portion of our land to transportation use – and that’s not even a guarantee!). That being said – alternatives modes of transportation don’t solve congestion issues, but they certainly help.

    I would think that if our overall goal with this and other projects is to improve the overall quality of the transportation system then we would want to make upgraded stretches of road as attractive as possible to alternative modes of transportation (i.e. bicycles in this case).

       —Ken A.    Apr. 11 '07 - 01:09AM    #
  32. I would think that if our overall goal with this and other projects is to improve the overall quality of the transportation system then we would want to make upgraded stretches of road as attractive as possible to alternative modes of transportation (i.e. bicycles in this case).

    Well, but in this case, let’s face it — most of the bicycles on HRD are there for recreation rather than transportation. I ride that road a few dozen times a year, but always for exercise — never to commute.

       —mw    Apr. 11 '07 - 01:23AM    #
  33. I agree that the more route choices that commuters have, the better to distribute traffic. But the bottom line here is cost. Is this the city’s most pressing priority for either city dollars or federal aid dollars with a city match? $1.3 million for a road that handles a couple thousand trips per day and clearly isn’t a significant link in the city’s transportation system? Like I asked before – if there wasn’t a road there today, would you build one? If not, why are we spending that kind of money for a road that so few people use?

       —John Q,    Apr. 11 '07 - 07:16AM    #
  34. John Q,

    Your insistance that 1.3 million is just too much for a road that handles only 2300 trips a day would have more traction if you provided some data on typical costs per trip per mile on roads that are reconstructed/repaved. I have no clue. But the 1.3M price tag doesn’t strike me as intuitively outrageous as it does you. If I saw how 1.3M/2300trips*1.3miles stacked up against, say, the recent Stadium reconstruction project, and began to get an idea of what a typical range for this stat was, maybe I could share your ire.

    As far as HRD’s role in the transportation system goes, I assume that the Skyline High traffic study, which has led to some planned roundabouts out on Maple had an assumption of continued motor traffic on HRD baked in to it. I wonder how much of the additional traffic to that area the study figured would be handled by HRD.

       —HD    Apr. 11 '07 - 01:54PM    #
  35. I use HRD both as a motorist and as a pedestrian. When I go into the central city during the daytime/weekday, I take the bus.

    As we consider the costs of re-building HRD, we need to consider the costs of closing it also. Let me give jus one example. As a frequent walker, I find Newport Road to be much more dangerous than HRD, narrower, lack of shoulders, and faster (despite the speed limit) traffic. For individuals in my neighborhood Newport is the alternate route into town. This road is also deteriorating and, as an urban street, really needs sidewalks. This week HRD was closed for several days because of tree cutting. The line of cars at Newport and MIller waiting to make a left turn was long and if HRD is closed this intersection may need a stoplight. Cost of diverting traffic to Newport?

    Finally — I did attend the meeting at Forsythe Middle School. I was struck by the lack of information presented. The next day I e-mailed my elected representatives, the mayor and two members of City Council expressing my concerns and suggesting that they attend any other meetings on this issue. Received a pleasant response from the mayor that basically said, don’t know anything about this project and a blow off response from one of my council members, nothing from the other.

       —Kaaren Strauch Brown    Apr. 12 '07 - 04:37PM    #
  36. I’ve got it. Let’s buy HRD with the greenbarrier money. And turn it into a cornfield, or wetlands or something. Call it “green” planning.

       —Cooler Heads    May. 3 '07 - 11:06PM    #
  37. That was so funny and so clever, no wonder no one else here thought to post it.

       —John Q.    May. 4 '07 - 02:24AM    #
  38. John Q. I am shaking my head over all the dopey things being done by leaders and citizens in AA. During a time when Michigan’s economy might simply get sucked into some kind of black hole forever, our citizenry gets its knickers in a twist over parking spaces for a vibrant new business that wants to come to town.

    At a time when city roads are crumbling (have you driven around lately?) and parks go without the attention they need or deserve, the city decides to push a greenbelt initative so we can pay money to people to buy land not in the city.

    And of course there’s the greenway.

    People who travel elsewhere in Michigan for business will tell you that Ann Arbor is still in a kind of comfortable bubble, not as beat up by the economic turmoil as elsewhere in the state. And in the midst of this, we decide to spend precious tax dollars on needless things, and fight with people who want to bring economic growth to the city.

    So that’s why, as I am biking around the city on the degrading roadways, I get irritable and make plans to write unclever posts on AU.

       —Cooler Heads    May. 4 '07 - 03:12AM    #
  39. You’re right, if the residents of Ann Arbor would just sit down and shut up and accept the same pattern of development that almost every other Michigan city has followed, surely it would lead the city to the economic promised land. Look how well that approach has worked for most Michigan communities. I’m sure some day the residents will come to their senses and realize that if they had just stuck with the status quo, life would have been so much better. One can only hope…

       —John Q,    May. 4 '07 - 09:33AM    #
  40. Want to avoid what other places have done? Great. Build a dense downtown. Allow for multi-family housing close to the city. Make places to park for people who live in that housing. Sad to say, the car isn’t going anywhere. But make it possible to have one for long trips and store it and walk the rest of the time.

    Recognize that greenbelts force up housing costs in the city and promote longer commutes.

    Do not put another park in the city. Work on maintaining the ones we have.

    Improve roads so they are more bicyle friendly. (I ride my bike a lot and I can tell you the roads here are lousy, except the few that are recently repaved.)

    Lure businesses downtown, including stores like Target. It will draw people into the city instead of sending them out to Carpenter road. Also, get a supermarket downtown and build a few more highrise apartment buildings to increase residential density near shopping and work. And, of course, larger, non-retail employers.

    But nope. Instead let’s moan about parking for Google, and historic districts, and saving a couple of truly ugly houses on Ann street.

       —Cooler Heads    May. 4 '07 - 03:54PM    #
  41. I would say that most of the people who have given serious thought about what the future of Ann Arbor should look like are already on board with much of what you suggest (although I think it’s unlikely and probably unnecessary to get stores like Target downtown). As far as housing costs as they relate to the Greenbelt, housing costs were already high in the city. People were already making long-distance commutes before the Greenbelt proposal. Will the Greenbelt exacerbate those problems? I tend to think not but the idea that allowing unmitigated suburban sprawl in the surrounding townships is going to help on either of those counts is ludicrous.

       —John Q.    May. 4 '07 - 10:37PM    #
  42. Closing Huron River Drive will be putting hundreds of children in danger by diverting thousands of cars daily into the school zone and crossings of three schools! Also many of those same children when home and playing will be exposed to increased unsafe conditions as many of these same cars divert through the local neighborhoods.

    We should also be aware that the closing will cause these same cars to travel a longer distance and consequently burn more gas, which will produce additional air pollution and greenhouse gases. This again putting the young children in a more dangerous environment. The closing will have a detrimental impact on emergency response, specially the fire dept, to the AA citizens and their children who live in the North West area. I ask our AA political leaders to lift themselves above the rhetoric of closing HRD and clearly see the impact a HRD closing would have on the health and safety of our children. Richard Wickboldt
       —Richard Wickboldt    May. 10 '07 - 08:46PM    #
  43. Slow down there Richard. According to the traffic counts, the road only sees 2300 trips per day or less than 100 cars per hour. Many of these cars likely traverse the road more than once per day. So the number of cars diverted is not going to be “thousands”. As for cars diverted through the local neighborhoods, what routes through the neighborhoods are quicker than staying on Maple or Newport?

    As for fire response, what parts of the city will be left unserved by fire service if the road was closed? Nothing south of the road would be affected by the road being closed. North of M-14, there’s a small number of residential areas in the city. Why wouldn’t fire trucks from downtown go out Miller and up Newport? Or respond from Jackson up Maple to that area? I can’t imagine that taking Main Street to HRD and then to points north and west is very fast or direct to respond to city neighborhoods.

       —John Q,    May. 11 '07 - 08:49AM    #
  44. Okay John I’ll slow down. Maybe we are parsing words here. But let’s put it in perspective. 100/ hour. Yet there are not 100/hr during the middle of the night. Let’s say that there is minimal traffic from 11 pm till 5 am. This makes it an average of approx 127/hr. Yes maybe the number of discrete individual cars will not be 2300. But there are 2300 trips or let’s call them transits. Each is a car moving within the areas. The intersection of Newport and Miller will become much more congested and wouldn’t be surprised if a traffic light would need to be installed to make it safer. I know myself would be taking Sunset as my shortest route and so would a few others who are commuting to the UM Medical campus. Others may try Sunset/Brooks Street if the Miller/Newport intersection gets bottled up. Maybe even Fountain or Spring streets.

    Fire and emergency response; the matter is not that simple. ALL FDs work on the premise that they have two avenues of response to insure a response vehicle can make it. Just in case there is an accident or road closure for some reason. If Newport is blocked north of M14 this has a sever impact on response time. My neighbor had a meeting with AAFD officials on this specific matter. They indicated they would be very concerned with the HRD closing. Please note also that every minute counts in fire response. It only takes 5 – 7 minutes for a structure to become fully involved and even a delay of one minute will have a severe impact on the outcome of safety to life and property. This is well known by the insurance companies and I am most assured that home insurance rates will increase in some of the effected areas. When I purchased my house the insurance company wanted to know where the fire hydrants are and proximity of the fire houses and routes taken. Responses to heart attacks also have a time issue on the successful outcome.

    The following from the U.S. Fire Administration/National Fire Data Center shows the difference a minute makes.

    The fire service is primarily concerned with how response time impacts flame spread. About half of structure fires confined to the room of origin (51%) and confined to the floor of origin (51%) had a response time of less than 5 minutes. More than half of fires confined to the building of origin (54%) and nearly half of fires beyond the building of origin (49%) had a response time of less than 6 minutes.
    Figure 5 shows that the mean response time was lowest for fires confined to the room of origin (less than 7 minutes) while fires that spread beyond the building of origin have the highest mean response time (less than 9 minutes).

    While closing HRD may make for a pleasant walk for some people and an enjoyable bike ride for others. I, my loved ones, my neighbors and friends who live in this area feel that our safety is much more important. Life is priceless as the saying goes and I would think that my fellow AA residents feel the same.
       —Richard Wickboldt    May. 14 '07 - 04:33PM    #
  45. Richard, there are a lot of people living in Ann Arbor who don’t have two routes to their houses. And still, the fire department has not told them of this terrible danger.

       —Cooler Heads    May. 15 '07 - 10:42PM    #
  46. From Elizabeth Rolla, Senior Project Manager:

    “This is a reminder that the second and final public meeting for the Huron River Drive Improvement Alternatives project is scheduled for Thursday, June 7, 2007 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Forsythe Middle School Cafeteria, 1655 Newport Rd., Ann Arbor. The last Design Advisory Committee (DAC) meeting was held Wednesday, May 30. At this meeting, the DAC selected two alternatives to carry forward to the next phase of evaluation; A) resurface the road in the current dimensions, and B) reconstruct the road as close as possible to the current dimensions.

    The alternative to close the road to motorized traffic will not be carried forward for further consideration. More information on how these determinations were made will be presented at the June 7 public meeting.”

       —HD    Jun. 4 '07 - 07:33PM    #