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Enbridge, steps, trees delay Oak Hill Road project

January 09, 2013 - Raymond Miller refers to the three rows of stones in his front yard as "Carriage Steps."

"I'm not sure of the purpose of the three steps up to my lawn from Oak Hill Road," said Miller who, with his wife Elizabeth, purchased the Springfield Township home in 1973. "It appears to be a landing where carriages once pulled up in front of the house and passengers could step down without getting into the mud on the road. The road commission kept adding gravel over the years so now only two steps are visible. I got tired of digging them out."

Miller's historic steps, which have endured more than a century of gradings along the rural road that divides Groveland and Springfield townships are just one of several obstacles that the Road Commission for Oakland County will need to contend with before paving of the rural section of Oak Hill Road begins.

The $1.9 million project paid for with 80 percent federal funding and shared dollars between Springfield and Groveland townships, was to begin in early 2013. However, a series of snags could delayed the project until 2014.

"Those steps are in the road easement," said Miller. "I'd hate to see them disappear."

Craig Bryson, public information officer for the RCOC said the steps and many of the century-old trees will be saved.

"We are working with Raymond and the property owners," said Bryson. "The bottom step will have to be moved, it's on the right-of-way. But we can move it and make it the top step and keep them. The State Historic Preservation Office has been contacted regarding the steps. It's common when a project of this magnitude goes through a rural area. Some of the residents' concerns have been settled already."

Bryson said the project which includes paving of a 1-mile section of Oak Hill Road between Kier Road and Dixie Highway was delayed until 2014.

"The project needs to wait until the Enbridge pipeline crews get done working in the area," he said. "We don't want to risk problems with the pipeline which goes under the road. We are just not ready to go right now. The Oak Hill project would take about three to six months or could even go longer. The design is to add six to eight inches or roadway."

Enbridge plans to replace approximately a total of 210 miles of its existing Line 6B crude oil pipeline from Griffith, Ind. to Sarnia, Ont. The project is scheduled to occur in two phases, with the first phase replacing 75 miles, including a 50-mile stretch from Stockbridge to Ortonville. The first phase includes 3 miles of pipeline in Groveland Township and 3 miles in Brandon Township, ending at a pump station near Cook's Trail.

Miller and others are concerned with how the rural appearance of Oak Hill Road will endure the changes by the pipeline and road paving.

"The real width of the road is now marked by trees and the carriage steps—that's the way it was 100 years ago," said Miller. "Keep the road narrow and looking rural. We don't need five foot shoulders on this road when it's paved. I liked the gravel road, now there will be more traffic and they can drive faster."

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