December 05, 2012 - Orion Township commuters will have their say at an upcoming public hearing about the perennially-proposed widening of Baldwin Road in southern Orion Township.
Orion Twp Supervisor Chris Barnett stands next to the site of a proposed street widening project. If approved, Baldwin Rd will see widening from Morgan to Indian Lake Roads. Photo by L. Farrell (click for larger version)
A green light for the proposal would mean the road could eventually be widened from Morgan Road to Indianwood Rd.
Residents are invited to a public hearing from 4 -7 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the Orion Twp. office (2525 Joslyn Road). Those wishing to attend should review the "preferred alternative" on the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) website. Look for publications under the "About Us" tab at the RCOC website (rcocweb.org).
The preferred alternative will widen Baldwin Road to a four-lane boulevard from Morgan to Judah.
Baldwin would be then widened to five lanes from Judah to Gregory, back to a narrow-median four-lane boulevard from Gregory to Maybee, and then to a standard four-lane boulevard from Maybee to Waldon.
Orion Twp. Supervisor Chris Barnett said the need for widening Baldwin is evident and was the number one question asked of him during the election season. Many businesses along the Baldwin corridor suffer from CAS (Commuter Avoidance Syndrome) — a pattern of behavior caused by traffic congestion that makes the area unattractive and an avoid-at-all costs route to Great Lakes Crossing, I-75, and all points south.
Barnett said he knew of at least one interested party who has declined to purchase one of the existing commercial parcels until the road is widened. Hindrances to commercial activity like that would be addressed with the widening. Municipal administrators expect consumer attention will be driven back to the region instead of away to other, easier to navigate shopping areas.
RCOC Public Information Officer Craig Bryson agreed with Barnett on the need for a wider Baldwin Road, and, like Barnett, thinks the challenge will be funding the project.
"Nobody has disputed that there is a need. But sadly, it's a good example of some of the road funding challenges we face in this county," Bryson said.
With an anticipated cost of over $25-30 million and the lion's share to come from federal funds, Bryson and Barnett believe the road works will likely not start in the foreseeable future.
Federal funding for all of Oakland County is about $17 million per year and is already promised to projects for at least four years into the future. Because of this fact, Bryson said that an expected start less than five years into the future would be pretty optimistic.
"Federal funds coming Oakland County are generally designated years ahead of time and there are no construction dollars dedicated to the project at this time so it's going to be a while," he said.
When the widening finally does occur, the RCOC preferred alternative calls for roundabouts to be built at key Baldwin intersections, such as Waldon, Maybee, Gregory, Judah and the Great Lakes Athletic Club entrance.
The primary reason for installing a roundabout is the greater safety they offer. "They are one of the safest intersections that you can have," Bryson insisted. The second reason is that they move a whole lot more traffic than signalized intersection does.
"Roundabouts are a solution to congestion," said Bryson.. "You can increase the capacity of a road almost to the same degree that you would by widening a road simply by adding roundabouts at some of the key intersections."
Even though the Baldwin widening project won't be a reality anytime soon, the public hearing on Dec. 11 is a first step toward launching the project. If you have any questions about how the road widening would function or have ideas about subtle or major elements that should be changed, this is the opportunity to offer that input.
For more information you can contact Craig Bryson, at 248-645-2000 ext. 2302 or Supervisor Barnett at 248-391-0304 ext. 201.