How to slow M-15

BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
Looking to slow down traffic on Main Street, the city could just take it over. That would probably be too expensive, though, said Planning Commissioner Frank Schoebel.
“Cost of ownership would be prohibitive. For myself, we can rule that out,” said Schoebel, who recommended starting with a meeting with MDOT to discuss short-term solutions such as a lower speed limit and truck diversion.
“We should leave taking over Main Street as a last resort,” said Planning Commissioner Sue Wylie at their Feb. 3 meeting.
City officials will meet with state Rep. Andrea Schroeder to discuss heavy truck traffic on Main Street on Friday, Feb. 14, at 10 a.m. at city hall.
Mayor Eric Haven said they also reached out state Sen. Rosemary Bayer, who responded, and to national representatives for help. U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin responded and they had a meeting with her.
“She was really very encouraging to us, with grant opportunities and options to show to the community,” Haven said.
Taking back the road would be pricey and a long-term project. Less pricey options include striping, bike paths, and electronic signage, he said.
“If it’s our road and not MDOT, we would have the opportunity to set our own rules – speed, types of vehicles,” said City Manager Jonathan Smith. “A big con would be the financial liability we would have to plan for, years in advance.”
City engineers HRC recommended not taking ownership unless the asphalt, streetlights, curbs, gutters, and the rest of the road is first repaired and refurbished up to standards by the state, said Melissa Coatta, associate at HRC.
HRC also recommended the city update its master plan for Main Street, Coatta said.
“Make a list of things that need to be done and ask they do those things,” Smith said. “Theoretically, it would be 15-20 years before we would need major expenses, and we could use that time to build up cash. It would definitely take some planning.”
The city could include replacement of curbs and asphalt, and streetlights expansion, and show it to MDOT, he said.
Sharron Catallo, former mayor speaking as a member of the public, said they should try to get Main Street off MDOT’s truck-route map, something the city has accomplished before.
“There’s an increase in heavy traffic up M-15 because of housing being built up there,” Catallo said. “Enforcement is really important. Once our police enforcement was gone (with the disbanding of the Clarkston Police Department in 2010), it seemed to pick up again.”
“Probably this summer we’re going to see a whole lot more traffic,” Haven said.
The city contracted with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office for two months this past summer for speed control on Holcomb, which was effective. Also, Dixie Highway and Sashabaw Road offer alternatives to M-15 through Clarkston, Smith said.
Issues include damage to historic homes from traffic vibration, Wylie said.
“That’s something we should certainly look at,” she said. “Striping, bike lanes, anything to make them slow down.”
Smith will put together a list of ideas.
“There’s not going to be one silver bullet to solve this,” he said. “Taking it over would be cost prohibitive. Maybe a combination of ideas would solve the problem. This has been going on for years and will take time to put together solutions.”
A truck traveling south on M-15 on Nov. 4, 2019, hit a vehicle and trailer near Bluegrass Drive, veered to the right off the roadway, barely missing Brioni’s, and coming to rest in the ditch just south of the parking lot,
This past Oct. 4, a car ran over a street sign and hit a utility pole on M-15 at Robertson Court. Last year on April 20, a truck hit two vehicles before smashing into a dental office on M-15 at Waldon Road.

4 Responses to "How to slow M-15"

  1. Cory Johnston   February 12, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    I am glad to again see the City of the Village of Clarkston at least starting to address this issue as it has been around and ignored for as long as I can remember.
    In 2009, a MDOT sponsored walk audit was done on Main Street with world renowned traffic and walkability expert Dan Burden. The city did nothing.
    A complete street policy was recommended by the city Planning Commission in 2010 to address Main Street issues only to have the city council take no action other than saying they were not going to discuss it any further (July 26, 2010 city council meeting minutes). Complete Streets is a State, County and Road Commission policy to address all forms of transportation and related issues.
    In 2014 when MDOT was going to repave Main Street, there was an agreement to add striping to the existing overly wide lanes which would have created a bike lane and narrowed the appearance of Main Street to help slow traffic. Somehow that didn’t happen and no one seems to know why.
    A Walkability Committee was established by the city in 2016 but as far as I can tell, they have not done anything.
    In the meantime. many who walk often avoid crossing Main Street as they consider it too dangerous. Trucks and other vehicles have run down light posts, trees, mail boxes, run into buildings, hit other vehicles and people. Still nothing but talk, no action, no council resolution, no ordinance, no plan, nothing.
    MDOT has many good people who can address these issues, I have talked to many of them, but the city continues to portray MDOT as the problem instead of a partner in the solution. MDOT has worked with many other communities to address traffic calming, lower speeds and safety. All it takes is the desire, a little time, and an understanding of the issues. We can only hope that it will happen here and in our lifetime.

    Reply
  2. MIKE FETZER   February 13, 2020 at 7:09 am

    It will be interesting to see what solutions evolve. Frankly, I’m not sure regular traffic is the source of all ills on M-15. Yes, mailboxes go down, but this year five mailboxes were damaged on a sunny afternoon on Bluegrass Drive, not by a speeding delivery truck but by a government snowplow. The reality is that M-15 is a state highway running thru a city where business growth has outpaced parking and traffic planning. I think anyone who believe the solution is to reroute traffic around the city and dump it on neighboring roads is dreaming. Increased patrols by the sheriff staff have been effective in slowing speeders, but I suspect city dwellers are going to have to get used to a high volume of traffic on M-15…and more on Holcomb, too, as more and more vehicles use Depot and Holcomb to escape M-15…

    Reply
  3. Cory Johnston   February 15, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    A little history of traffic and development in the City of the Village of Clarkston.
    In the 70’s, residents of the Village of Clarkston organized and did what was required to create what is now the Village of Clarkston Historic District in order to protect the historic homes and character of the Village. Much of that effort was caused by the fear that Main Street would be widened and developed as a commercial corridor.
    In the late 80’s, residents of the Village organized an effort to have the Village become a city instead of a Village in Independence Township subject to Township control. A vote for that happened in 1980 and the Village of Clarkston officially became a wholly separate city in 1992. Again, one of the reasons was to control if not outright stop commercial development in the Village of Clarkston. A policy that continues to this day.
    Complaints about traffic have existed for as long as I have been here which is now over 40 years. The city has ignored the fact that development and traffic has and will continue to increase all around it. The village sits on a state road, M-15/Main Street which connects I-75 and US 24, Dixie Highway. but has yet to address the problem or any kind of viable solution. Taking over Main Street is not economically or practicably viable as the city has no means to do any greater enforcement than they do now, which is none.
    The city took on more responsibility by becoming a city and creating a historic district without ever addressing that responsibility, what it means, and what is happening around them. The city could not afford to have their own police and they were disbanded which means far less enforcement of just about everything. The city now uses the Oakland County Sheriff through a contract with Independence Township. The city has no contract or agreement with the Sheriff department and technically has to have permission and approval from Independence to have any special enforcement or services different from that provided anywhere else.
    This is the situation that exists and will continue to get worse as Independence and the surrounding area continues to develop. The post office, library, hardware store, drug store, bank and other basic businesses have all left the Village. Rumor has it that Rudy’s may soon be gone as a local grocer. The city has no plan at all to deal with any of this.
    That all sounds very negative but it happens in other communities and there are ways to deal with it. However, that is difficult to do when the city government continues to ignore everything that is happening, has no plan, and has no priorities for how limited city funds are spent.

    Reply
  4. MIKE FETZER   February 19, 2020 at 7:18 am

    Mr. Johnston, your comments—those above and in other writings—are not “very negative.” Your commentary is a useful, informative, logical educational tool that benefits the community immensely. What I can’t understand is why voters tolerate and continue to elect officials who fight transparency in government operations and seem to have no strategic plan for managing anything. Who ever heard of a county official silently sitting on his/her hands as counsel paid from tax funds advocates in court that residents have no right to access documents created and reviewed by government officials at public expense?

    Reply

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