October 03, 2012 - The issue at hand was prohibiting right-turns so as to reduce the amount of cut-through traffic flowing through the Willow Lake subdivision.
But the residents seemed more interested in finding ways – ranging from speed bumps to increased police presence – to slow down motorists speeding through their neighborhood.
"We see a fair amount of speeding traffic throughout the day," said resident Bryan Quinn. "There's a lot of children in the neighborhood, a lot of people walking their pets."
"My issue isn't with people coming through the (subdivision)," he explained. "It's (them) coming through speeding and littering. That's the problem. I'm not opposed to anyone taking a shortcut. I don't mind doing it myself. But just abide by the speed limit and respect (other people's) property by not throwing trash out."
That being said, the Willow Lake residents who packed the Sept. 25 Oxford Village Council meeting were still overwhelmingly in favor of prohibiting right-turns from westbound Lakeville Rd. onto State St. from 7-8 a.m. on school days only.
As a result, officials voted 4-1 to do so with Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth casting the lone dissenting vote.
State St. leads in and out of the Willow Lake subdivision, connecting Lakeville and N. Oxford roads. It's often used by students looking for a shortcut to and from Oxford High School. The route is a way to avoid the traffic signal at the intersection of Lakeville Rd. and Glaspie St. and the bumper-to-bumper vehicular backups that usually occur there in the early morning and later afternoon.
A traffic survey was conducted on Sept. 19, 2006 and of the 72 vehicles that turned on to State St. from Lakeville Rd. between 6:30 and 8:30 a.m., 50 were using it as a cut-through to N. Oxford Rd., according to Chuck Keller, a traffic engineer with the Road Commission for Oakland County.
"The sign is a solution to a specific period of time when the condition is the worst," he explained. "We're just trying to help improve the situation somewhat for you. We're never going to make it go away."
Village Police Chief Mike Neymanowski noted he recently went out to the area to personally assess the situation and he concurred with the road commission's findings.
"The highest volume of traffic in the morning is around 7:30 to about 7:50," he said. "So, I think the 7-8 (a.m. time frame), if that's what you want, is probably appropriate."
Neymanowski believes a sign prohibiting right-turns will help stop the high school traffic from coming through there.
Because Willow Lake is located outside the village's boundaries, Oxford Township has agreed to pay for the necessary signage, according to Supervisor Bill Dunn. That stretch of Lakeville Rd. where the sign will be placed is located within the village's jurisdiction.
Some residents questioned how the right-turn prohibition will be enforced.
"We would notify the (Oakland County) sheriff's department," Dunn said. "They're not going to be out there every day. They will all of the sudden be there, catch 30 or 40 people and ticket them. That will slow everybody down for a while. Then, it might be two weeks (or) it might be a month (later), they'll be out there again."
It was noted by Neymanowski that the right-turn prohibition can be enforced by both sheriff's deputies and village police officers.
When asked if anything can be done so Willow Lake residents won't be ticketed if they make a right-turn there, Dunn replied, "It's going to be up to (sheriff's deputies). They do have discretion . . . They have discretion to warn you or give you a ticket."
Although Quinn favored the right-turn prohibition, he said, "That only takes care of one hour of (the) 24 hours in a day."
He asked if a sign could be posted prohibiting all through traffic with the exception of residents and their visitors.
"It's a public road; you really can't prohibit people from driving through there," replied village President Tom Benner. "We're all on public streets. We can't say, 'This car, you can't come down my street because it's on your way to Meijer.'"
But for many residents the main issue is speeding, not the plethora of nonresident traffic. "My biggest concern is the speeders," said one resident who did not identify himself. "You're not going to stop the through-traffic. But if you can slow it down, you may deter people from going that way."
One resident suggested placing speed bumps in the subdivision to slow motorists down, but Keller told the audience that's not an option in this particular case.
Keller indicated in order to be eligible for speed bumps there must be a minimum of 1,000 vehicles per day using the subdivision road, 25 percent of that must be cut-through traffic and the 85th percentile speed of the traffic studied must be traveling 35 miles per hour or more. He also noted that given the way the road curves in Willow Lake, it would be difficult to find a suitable spot at which to place a speed bump.
Keller noted that based on national statistics, 85 percent of people driving though subdivisions are traveling at about 31 or 32 mph or less. He said that's the "minimum" even though the speed limit is posted at a lower rate, typically 25 mph.
"Fifteen percent of the people are always going to be exceeding that. There's really nothing we can do," said Keller, who noted those are the drivers that law enforcement must deal with.
Dunn indicated he can request the sheriff's department place a patrol car there more often to catch speeders. "That's all it takes is a phone call to me for extra patrols," he said. "I won't promise it that day, but you can expect them when you least expect them."
He warned Willow Lake residents, it's not just the cut-through drivers who could receive tickets. Dunn explained that years ago, he received many complaints from residents in the Lakes of Indianwood subdivision about speeders and cut-through traffic. So, he requested that the sheriff's department send a patrol car out there to monitor things.
"They worked them over pretty good," he said. "They handed out 32 tickets. Twenty-eight of them lived in the sub."
"Be careful what you ask for," Dunn added. "If he starts hammering people (with) tickets, I don't want people calling me."
The supervisor noted, "We only have two to three cars to patrol 34.5 square miles of the township. So, they can't be there all the time. They can't be everywhere. But I can assure you that when you least expect it, they're going to be there."
Township Trustee Mike Spisz suggested Willow Lake's speeding issue be placed on the township board's meeting agenda for discussion. "I'm sure there's other options," he said.
Jack Curtis, who's a trustee candidate for township board, suggested solving the inherent problems with the Lakeville/Glaspie intersection is the real way to curb cut-through traffic in the subdivision and relieve traffic congestion on Lakeville Rd.
"That's where all of the traffic problem is," he said. "Before we (decide) the sign is the remedy and the police are the remedy, we need to get at the real cause of this and work with everybody in the community."
Curtis believes village, township and school officials need to be involved with fixing that intersection and rerouting school bus traffic. "In the morning, there could be 30 school buses lined up, waiting to make that right turn onto (N. Glaspie St./N.Oxford Rd.)," he said. "We need to schedule those buses to go alternate routes rather than all converge on that one area."
After hearing Willow Lake residents complaints, Helmuth noted that "a lot of these are problems that we have in every subdivision in Oxford." She voted against the right-turn prohibition because "we're just moving the problem from one area to another," from a township street to a village street.
Helmuth believes the real solution to the traffic issues is for the county to pave more of its gravel roads in the township.
"There's one road into this town, there's one road out," she said. "And until there's another paved route in and out, there's nowhere else for these cars to go . . . Pave a street, get another route for these kids to go and there will be somewhere else for them to go rather than Willow (Lake), rather than Glaspie, rather than M-24 . . . We don't have enough paved roads on the east side of town. There's roads that could be paved."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.