August 08, 2012 - Some Independence Township residents have made a habit of dodging traffic because of a non-functional crosswalk on Sashabaw and Bow Pointe roads.
"Somebody's going to get hit," said Lori Powell, who has dodged traffic trying to get across the road.
The traffic light on Sashabaw flashes yellow, allowing traffic to continue at the posted 50 m.p.h. speed limit, while Bow Pointe has a flashing red light. The light on Sashabaw didn't always flash yellow; it previously went through the usual red, yellow, and green cycles.
However, drivers on Sashabaw complained about being stopped because there was little traffic on Bow Pointe, explained Terry Creech in the Traffic Operations Center of the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC).
Due to the complaints, the RCOC turned the light to 24-hour flash mode, but "the pedestrian signals don't operate when it is in flash mode," said Creech.
Lori Powell and her husband, Mike, have complained about the signal for at least two years to members of the township board and the RCOC, they said. "They haven't done anything," said Lori Powell.
Cyclists Ellen and Ken Cooper bike in the area daily but have had to find more pedestrian-friendly alternative routes. The Coopers say they've spoken up at township board meetings and contacted the RCOC, but there's still "no place to cross except miles away."
Trustee Neil Wallace said because Sashabaw and Bow Pointe are county roads and not township roads, "we can't do anything except try to persuade the Oakland County Road Commission to do something."
The RCOC's Craig Bryson said the situation was reviewed after speaking with Clarkston school officials and the township.
"There are not enough pedestrians to justify turning on the signal," Bryson said. "We're concerned that if the signal were turned on and just used sporadically, it could be a dangerous situation."
Pine Knob Elementary confirmed that no walkers use the Bow Pointe and Sashabaw crosswalk.
From the RCOC's point of view, daily commuters have grown accustomed to the flashing light, so changing the signal might cause traffic accidents.
"If you're on a road where you drive everyday, you get used to the signal being in flash. But all of the sudden one day it turns red and you're not expecting that, you're going to have rear-end collisions and potentially have pedestrians hit if people don't stop because they aren't used to having a light there," said Bryson.
Besides deciding who is more at risk, drivers who regularly use the route or pedestrians at the crosswalk, the RCOC must also consider the plans for the McLaren development on Sashabaw and Bow Pointe.
"There's simply not that much traffic today going into that McLaren property," said Bryson.
However, the intersection will likely get busier if a hospital is built nearby, and Bryson said the RCOC might activate the crosswalk signal, "but there's got to be more traffic accessing that property to justify doing that."
Trustee Wallace notes development of West Bow Pointe and McLaren hospital would probably increase traffic there. McLaren is appealing the denial of their Certificate of Need (CON) application and cannot build a hospital unless their CON has been approved. The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) denied McLaren's CON because "there is not a need for additional beds in the area," said Angela Menicuci of the MDCH.
Without further development, the crosswalk signal may never become operational.
Find more information by contacting the RCOC at 1-877-858-4804.
Clarkston News reporter