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Village's potential truck restrictions could increase traffic on twp. roads

August 27, 2014 - Mary Hale doesn't want to see Oxford Village rid one of its main streets of the truck traffic "nuisance" by moving the problem to surrounding township roads like W. Drahner Rd., where she lives.

"Their solution is to make somebody else deal with it," she said. "I just don't get that. Why is that okay?"

Hale is upset about the village council's recent movement toward potentially adopting ordinance language designed to restrict truck traffic on W. Burdick St.

In an effort to reduce excessive noise, foundation-rattling vibrations, and wear and tear on the road, council is considering prohibiting trucks weighing more than 40,000 pounds – gross weight including cargo – from using W. Burdick St. Officials are also considering prohibiting truck traffic from using the street between the hours of 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Council scheduled a second reading and possible adoption of these ordinance amendments for its 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9 meeting at 22 W. Burdick St.

"Like all politicians, they want to put a Band-Aid on something, but do they really stop and think about the cause and effect? What's going to happen? Those trucks are going to go somewhere," said Hale, a certified public accountant who's lived in the Oxford/Addison area since 1989.

"She's absolutely right," said Craig Bryson, spokesman for the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC). "It's like a water spigot. You shut it off in one place, the water's going to come out somewhere else. The village is moving the problem from their road onto a county road in front of somebody else's house."

Gary Piotrowicz, RCOC deputy managing director/county highway engineer, explained it's not the county's practice to prohibit trucks on the roads it owns and maintains.

"It just shifts truck traffic somewhere else. They have to go somewhere," he said. "All it does is move that problem from one place to another and (create) a never-ending problem. You move it to the next street, then (the residents there) complain. So, we just don't do it."

Piotrowicz said the RCOC's "take on it" is when a person buys a home, they did so "under existing conditions," which includes things like truck traffic.

"Whatever the condition is, that's what you bought it under," he said. "If we move (the truck traffic) to the next road, those people didn't buy (their houses) under that condition. It's not fair to do that to other people, so we don't do it."

Although the RCOC doesn't enact truck prohibitions on its roads, there are some county roads that have them in place because the local municipalities put them there, according to Bryson.

"Some of the local communities, even though they don't have jurisdiction over the roads, they have the authority under the Michigan Vehicle Code to impose truck prohibitions on our roads," he noted.

"The bottom-line is we don't do it ourselves," Piotrowicz added.

Hale is concerned if the village restricts truck traffic on W. Burdick St., then trucks will begin rumbling past her "dream house" on W. Drahner Rd., just west of Coats Rd.

Based on her observations, that's what happened when part of W. Burdick St./Seymour Lake Rd. was closed for reconstruction between June 11 and July 30.

Semi-trucks and gravel-haulers seeking alternate routes began "barreling down" W. Drahner Rd., according to Hale.

"I was waking up at a quarter to five every morning," she said, "You could hear them . . . It became a pattern."

Because that portion of W. Drahner Rd. is a bumpy, gravel road, the trucks would generate a lot of noise. Hale said she could hear them coming toward her house and as they drove away toward Baldwin Rd.

Once W. Burdick St. reopened, Hale said the large truck traffic pretty much ceased.

She fears if the village essentially closes W. Burdick St. to a good portion of the truck traffic, it will begin using her road again, but this time, it will be indefinitely.

Hale understands that W. Drahner Rd. is already heavily traveled.

"I'm not going to say that road's not busy. It is busy," she said. "When we bought this place – it will be three years ago in November – we had no idea the amount of traffic that was on this dirt road. It looked so serene . . . But it is what it is. We deal with it."

That being said, Hale doesn't believe semi-trucks, gravel-haulers and other large trucks need to be added to the equation. "We have our fair share of traffic," she said.

Hale said her area is "100 percent residential" whereas W. Burdick St. has "some businesses" located along it and the gravel trucks have been using that road "for years."

"I think the village is beautiful, but if you're going to choose to live in the village, you're going to be closer to the business district and you're going to have truck traffic," she said. "Just saying, 'I don't want it anymore' and pushing it out (into the township) isn't right."

"I feel bad for (residents along W. Burdick St.). I can sympathize," she added. "It stinks, but you get what you get when you choose where you're going to live."

One of her big concerns about truck traffic being pushed onto W. Drahner Rd. is safety. She's worried about vehicles being pushed off the "small cliff" across from her house that leads down to Pine Lake.

"There's no guardrail," said Hale, who noted a vehicle went over the edge and into the lake this past winter.

She's also concerned about the "blind intersection" at W. Drahner and Coats roads. There's a stop sign for vehicles traveling along W. Drahner Rd., but none for vehicles on Coats Rd.

Due to trees and other vegetation in the area, Hale said drivers on W. Drahner have to pull out into the middle of the intersection just to see if anyone's coming from Coats.

Having large trucks regularly crossing this intersection would only add to the potential for crashes, in her opinion.

"It makes me nervous as it is," she said.

She doesn't believe the gravel portion of W. Drahner can handle a consistent flow of large trucks. She believes it will negatively impact the road's condition.

"I think it causes more bumps, that's for sure," Hale said. "I'm not a road engineer, but I can't imagine this residential dirt road is made for semi-trucks."

She said the newly-reconstructed portion of W. Burdick St. is built for truck traffic, whereas her road is not.

Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn agreed. "The worst part, the road (the village is) trying to protect is designed to handle the trucks they are going to be pushing into the township," he wrote in an e-mail to Hale.

When asked how large trucks impact gravel roads, Bryson replied, "They just tear them right up."

"(These roads are) just the earth's surface with a little bit of gravel poured on top," he said. "They're just not able to withstand that kind of weight and that kind of traffic."

Piotrowicz agreed.

"Certainly, a big truck's going to do more damage to a gravel road," he said. "They're not an improved road that's made to handle trucks, so the condition of the road will deteriorate much faster."

Anytime more traffic, whether it's passenger cars or semi-trucks, is placed on a road, it's going to increase the wear-and-tear on it, but large trucks "amplify the problem," according to Piotrowicz.

"Trucks create more damage," he said. "If you had 100 trucks a year on one road and you start putting 1,000 on that road, it's going to create more damage."

Both Piotrowicz and Bryson said residents have to keep in mind that truck drivers have a right and a need to use local roads like everyone else. "They all pay gas tax (to help maintain) these roads. They're public roads," Piotrowicz said.

"And we, ultimately, all want the products that they're delivering," Bryson added.

The idea of creating designated truck routes is something the RCOC has discussed before, but it comes with its own set of obstacles.

"Typically, the reason these trucks go down these roads is because there is no other good route," Piotrowicz said. "Once you eliminate their good route, there (aren't) a lot of good alternatives for them to choose from."

He also noted that "generally, the harder deal is to get the locals to agree to a route" than getting the RCOC to sign off on one.

"Every one of those roads that would be an alternative has people living along it and none of those residents are going to want to be living on a road designated as a truck route," Bryson said.

Piotrowicz indicated the RCOC would be willing to discuss truck traffic issues with both Oxford Village and Township officials.

"We'd be happy to do that," he said. "I think that certainly would be the appropriate thing to do."

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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