March 26, 2014 - A suggested traffic "relief valve" off interstate I-75 in Independence Township has some residents in an uproar.
Neighbors formed the group Independence Residents Against Clintonville Expansion, IRACE, to protest any entrance ramp onto the highway near the intersection of Maybee and Clintonville roads.
"We are deeply dismayed that Supervisor (Pat) Kittle is actually going ahead, spending money on a 'this is just a concept' feasability study, without having discussions with the people first," said resident Mike George in a letter to the Independence Township Board.
The township supervisor said the study is free.
The entrance ramp would curb back-ups on Sashabaw Road that have occurred for decades, Kittle said.
"This congestion is not just limited to concert nights at the DTE Energy Theatre – it often occurs at peak rush hours in the morning and evening," he said.
The growing population of Independence Township, now at about 36,000 residents, is part of the reason for heavy congestion in the area, he said.
If the ramp is installed, commuters would no longer have to drive to Sashabaw Road to get on the expressway – drivers would have an additional option.
DTE would benefit from the ramp because it would help clear parking lots quicker at the venue after events end at 11 p.m.
The township's engineering firm Hubble, Roth and Clark, as well as the South Eastern Michigan Council of Governments, will conduct a feasibility study to explore costs to build one entrance ramp heading southbound at Maybee and Clintonville Roads.
A large intersection was proposed for Clintonville and Maybee roads to ease traffic about 10 years ago, but residents protested the intersection.
George, one of the residents that fought the intersection, said he fears DTE concertgoers would make their way to his neighborhood after partying at the concert venue.
He added traffic on Sashabaw is not that bad since the road was widened, and he believes a better solution would be to widen I-75 instead.
George said he fears Sashabaw Road would end up like Baldwin Road, which he said would be a catastrophe and eventually include plans for an off ramp too.
Another resident expressed concern that the ramp would be built on land owned by a conservancy group.
"It will be interesting to see if NOHLC (North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy) fights to conserve a green space they are entrusted to conserve or if they sell this green space to relieve congestion so a hospital can be built on another green space," said Independence Township resident Michael Powell.
The conservancy, a non-profit group dedicated to protecting and preserving wetlands and other naturally important properties, had acquired eight acres of property near the proposed ramp through a consent judgment.
Sue Julian, executive director of NOHLC, said most of the property in question is owned by Consumers Energy, with only a small sliver of the land in question owned by NOHLC.
Julian said land owned by NOHLC is located mostly south of the intersection, and the location of the proposed ramp is not under the organization's control.
She added the group has not sought control over the entire northern portion of the property because it has little conservation value and is presently being used as an informal parking lot for work vehicles.
Julian said she is unaware of the exact location of the proposed ramp, so she could not say for sure if NOHLC would ever reach a deal to provide the property to the township.
"NOHLC will continue to conserve and enhance the conservation values of the part of the land over which it has control," she said.
Several other entities also have legal interests in the area, including Michigan Department of Transportation, Road Commission for Oakland County and Oakland County Drain Commission.
Julian said wildflowers and trees were recently planted on Clintonville Road about 10 feet off the road near the safety path and the group plans to turn an interior field near the location into a prairie. Planting was done far from the area in question because of all the legal interest in the area.
Kittle asked residents submit specific comments outlining why they think the valve is good or bad, but some residents have already spoken out.
Submit comments about the proposal to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know to at ClarkstonNews@gmail.com.
Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.