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M-24 plan gets favorable reception at open house



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Oxford Village Manager Joe Young (left) explains the M-24 traffic calming concept plan to property owners (from left) Bob Knauf and Russ and Mary Gill. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio (click for larger version)
November 13, 2013 - It was a small crowd, but the opinions expressed were favorable regarding the concept plan for calming M-24 traffic and improving safety in Oxford Village.

"I'm happy with what I see," said Ron Rolando, owner of Great Lakes Mercantile (8 S. Washington St.) in downtown Oxford. "There's not a lot of fluff. It's got things (in it) that need to be done. It looks pretty good to me."

Last week, the village held an open house that gave citizens and property owners the opportunity to view, comment on and ask questions about the M-24 concept plan created by engineer Jim Sharpe.

The plan depicts numerous traffic calming measures and safety improvements to M-24 (Washington St.) between East St. to the north and Minnetonka Dr. to the south.

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Right now, the concept plan calls for additional traffic signals; the installation of multiple crosswalks with colored concrete to make them more visible to motorists; the creation of center left-turn lanes at certain intersections to reduce the number of rear-end collisions; and the construction of raised medians dividing north and southbound M-24 to both slow traffic and give pedestrians a safe harbor while crossing the busy state highway.

For a list of all the proposed improvements, visit www.oxfordleader.com/Articles-News-i-2013-10-30-253080.113121-sub-Improvements-in-M24-concept-plan.html

"It needs to be done," said Oxford resident and avid bicyclist Genevieve Otlewski. "There is too much traffic in town. You've got to slow the traffic down, have more lights (and) make it a lot easier for people walking and people riding (bicycles)."

Otlewski said the concept plan is "definitely a good start" toward accomplishing those goals.

Right now, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has $1.48 million in funding approved for 2018 to install a center left-turn lane from Minnetonka Dr. to just south of Burdick St.

Village officials fear simply adding a fifth lane would only serve to make traffic flow faster through town and do nothing to enhance pedestrian safety.

This concept plan is part of their attempt to present MDOT with a viable alternative.

Rolando likes the fact the concept plan includes installing a traffic signal at the intersection of M-24 and Dennison/Stanton streets.

To him, having a signal there would enable pedestrians to safely cross and vehicles to safely turn left onto M-24 off Dennison and Stanton streets.

"We've needed that forever," Rolando said.

Rolando believes a signal there makes more sense and will have more of an actual impact on the downtown than the traffic signal MDOT installed at Broadway St./M-24 in 2009 after village officials lobbied for another light.

"That was only a token from MDOT," she said. "That's all it was."

Rolando was also glad to see the concept plan leaves downtown's existing on-street parking as is for the most part.

The only exception is it calls for eliminating the on-street spaces in front of Centennial Park and adding some in front of Casa Real and the Ox Bar & Grill to make up for it.

Kevin Wisely, manager of Genysis Credit Union's Oxford branch, liked the idea of adding left-turn lanes along M-24 as a safety enhancement. "I do think that's needed in a lot of those places," he said.

Right now, vehicles trying to turn left must stop in the left lane and wait for oncoming traffic to clear. This leads to traffic backups and impatient drivers quickly changing lanes so as to avoid getting stuck.

"It's a hazard," Wisely said. "If they could do something to improve that, particularly (during) the high-traffic times, I think it's worth looking at."

Otlewski liked that the plan allows for left-turns from southbound M-24 onto Broadway St., something that is currently prohibited. She explained that when M-24 traffic is heavy, it's very difficult to turn left into the Oxford Bank parking lot or onto Ensley St., which are located north and south of Broadway St., respectively.

"It's so hard to turn. People do not let you in," Otlewski said. "I've done it a million times, missed the (turn into the) bank parking lot. Then you sit forever trying to turn onto Ensley to backtrack."

Russ and Mary Gill, who own the home at 114 S. Washington St., were pleased with the concept plan as well.

Based on what they've seen so far, the Gills believe the proposed changes will help improve M-24's traffic flow.

"It's bumper-to-bumper sometimes for like an hour-and-a-half right in front of our house," Mary said.

The Gills also see it as a way to help make existing businesses along M-24 more accessible and attract new businesses to town.

"I think it's a great plan for the village," Russ said. "I think it will enhance the town."

Although the plan is primarily about M-24, it does include the village's plans to create an East Alley.

The East Alley project calls for constructing a two-lane, 28-foot-wide, two-way road, just east of M-24, from Ensley St. to the Holy Cross Lutheran Church's parking lot.

Another 16-foot-wide, one-lane, one-way road would then be constructed from the alley's southern end to M-24.

Both roads would contain bicycle lanes.

Properties along the proposed alley are currently zoned for commercial/office use. If new businesses open along it, as officials hope, they would be required to install paved parking areas.

Mary Gill sees the alley as a way to alleviate congestion on M-24. "I think that will take a lot of the load off," she said.

Russ Gill see the potential benefit East Alley could offer in terms of inducing new businesses to open here.

"I think that offers more opportunity," he said.

Local property owner Bob Knauf was also a proponent of the East Alley project.

"The East Alley needs to be completed before any of the other parts of the (traffic calming) project are done, so it can relieve (traffic on) M-24," he said. "The (preliminary) engineering's been done (for the East Alley) and it's been in (the) planning (stages) for a long period of time. It should be completed as Phase I, in my opinion."

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.
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