July 24, 2013 - A $4 million project to improve Sashabaw Road and the 1-75 interchange as well as the intersection of Waldon Road is a top priority for Independence Township, according to officials. Township Engineer Dick Carlisle updated the Township Board, July 9.
The plan includes a new ramp from I-75 to Sashabaw Road. (click for larger version)
"The project will include some minor improvements as well as installing turning lanes. There's also a plan to add dual left hand turn lanes on east bound Waldon," said Carlisle.
Lanes will also be remarked, and a traffic light installed at the park and ride. The most significant part of the project is a new ramp to southbound Sashabaw Road from northbound 1-75, he said.
Independence Township Trustee David Lohmeier said he agrees that it is the most important project in the area.
"Anyone who has hit traffic in the area during an event at DTE knows how bad traffic in the area can be," he said.
Future growth will just make the problem worse.
The Sashabaw Road corridor has 190 acres of vacant land available for development.
"We have a surprising amount of land to be developed and great deal of potential for growth," said Carlisle, adding that future prospects of growth for the township looks good.
The project also includes adding lanes dedicated to emergency vehicles, good news for McLaren Health Care, a hospital working to build a new location in Clarkston. McLaren committed to donating $1.5 million to help fund the project when they submitted a development agreement to the township.
McLaren is suing to reverse the state Department of Community Health's decision to reject their Certificate Of Need application for the hospital. Oakland County Circuit Court is expected to decide the case this fall.
In addition to a new hospital, a new hotel may also be coming soon.
Township Supervisor Pat Kittle said Comfort Inn recently submitted plans to the township Planning Commission for a three-story 80-plus-bed hotel near Culver's and Taco Bell on Sashabaw. Kittle said plans for the hotel are in the very beginning stages of planning, but the road improvements will help attract new business like that.
Kittle added new businesses mean more money for area businesses and restaurants.
"It also means more tax revenue for the township. Good news as businesses and the township begin to recover from the economic downturn," he said.
Carlisle said although the economic downturn lasted a year longer than he previously thought, future growth projections for the area are promising – so the project is an important one.
The Sashabaw 1-75 improvements will cost just over $4 million dollars and will be funded through tax revenue, private and public and Tri-Party funding, and other sources.
"The chief means of financing for the CIA is through the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF)," he said.
TIF revenues are collected from an increased tax based for the township, Oakland County and Oakland Community College.
TIF funding collected through 2021 is projected to provide $438,430 of the cost, while Tri-Party funding will provide $825,000.
DTE Energy Theatre will also provide $600,000 in funding for the project in addition to a possible $800,000 loan. Any loan provided by DTE will be paid back with six percent interest.
In 2005, the township created a Corridor Improvement Authority (CIA) Board to oversee Sashabaw Road improvements.
Taxable value of properties in Independence Township is expected to decrease in 2013 and then rise 2.5-3 percent in the following years. Although Tax Increment Revenues will dip from $114,186 in 2013 to $87,850 in 2014, total revenues are expected to increase significantly through 2021. A second $2 million widening of Sashabaw Road to Flemings Lake Road project has been put on hold by the CIA until additional funding is found.
"It gives us shovel ready projects for the future," said Lohmeier."The township needs to keep our eyes open for additional sources of funding,"
Kittle said the Sahabaw/1-75/Waldon Road project is expected to begin in 2014 or 2015.