December 25, 2013 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
Three sections of Lapeer Rd. are being eyed for improvements starting in 2016.
A portion in Orion Township, from Harmon Rd. to Golden Gate, is already in the early design phase of construction, and will be the first project to take shape from spring to fall of 2016.
Two other projects are in the very early scoping phase for the M24 corridor, from Golden Gate to Harriet (coming into Oxford) and the last project is from Harriet to Davison Lake Rd.
The construction is a result of all that growth people have been talking about.
"Obviously we've had a lot of traffic value increase over the corridor over the years and it's because of that growth that's occurred and that development," Sandra Montes said, service center manager for the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Any time a new developer purchases land along M24 and wants access to the road, a permit is required from MDOT, Montes said, a key indicator growth is coming. Montes said they have issued many permits, and there is certainly more to come.
Construction would not be adding any additional laneage (too expensive), she continued, but to improve the current traffic flow and efficiency, especially where developers are building.
According to a report prepared by the Traffic Improvement Association of Michigan (TIA) which ranked the highest frequency of accidents at intersections over the last three years, W. Clarkston Rd and Lapeer Rd. had the most crashes, with 113 reported.
E. Scripps Rd. and Lapeer—where much of the current development is popping up—is ranked fifth, with 56 total crashes over the three years. Sixty two intersections were analyzed.
"We review the [developer's] site plan, we review the access and how they're going to set up the drives, that they are done safely and that people can get in and out," Montes said. "For instance you wouldn't want to put a driveway too close to an intersection. You would look into putting it as far from the intersection as you can."
Most of the accidents MDOT sees are rear-end crashes, Montes said.
"Traffic backups are locations where you see more accidents because people aren't anticipating coming up to stopped traffic. That's why we really look at traffic history and what measures we can do to address that type of accident," she said.
MDOT does not have the funding to even consider adding any additional lanes, which would require buying a lot of right-of-way, which is very expensive Montes added.
The construction budget is $24 million.
A majority of the funding comes from the Federal Highway Administration, and the rest will come from the State of Michigan.
Some of the improvements include:
Milling, or replacing, the existing top layer of pavement; assessing Michigan u-turn crossovers and re-engineering and possibly relocating them; assessing and improving drainage; connecting some of the safety path gaps; analyzing opportunities to improve and consolidate driveways attached to the corridor; and traffic signal improvements including upgrading signals to LED lights.
Montes also said some of the main intersections, such as Scripps and Lapeer and Silverbell and Lapeer will also be analyzed to improve safety and efficiency.
"We look at the crash history, the types of crashes, we look for patterns that may be correctable," Montes said, and do "a very thorough modeling at the intersection and determine the level of service that the intersection is and what would the new level of service be."
"Especially in a.m. and p.m. peak hours the traffic volumes are very high during those periods and you have to get a lot of traffic through those corridors as efficiently as you can," Montes said.
The goal is to have construction for only the one season and to keep two lanes open the entire time.
Will drivers see any improvement to the heavily congested moments spent on Lapeer?
"I can't say 100 percent, but I would say that you should see some improvement. But you have to realize too that it also depends on how much future development there is too. When we model what the flow is going to look like we project out many, many years, so we expect that the improvements you will see will last many, many years. It's hard to say, things can change but based on our models and predictions of population growth we expect it to last, it's a good investment," Montes said.