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A fix for Scripps: Township makes plans to improve traffic flow around Lake Orion High School

November 17, 2010 - Now that Tri-Party funds are almost assuredly coming in 2011, Orion Township is ready to get the show on the road.

Scripps Road, that is.

The board of trustees approved funding Monday for the initial phase of a project aimed at "improving the northbound turn lane off Scripps westbound onto M-24."

In other words, a project that will finally help alleviate long waits, bottlenecking and frustration caused all the traffic -- hundreds and hundreds of cars -- coming in and out of Lake Orion High School and Scripps Middle School every day.

The solution, according to Orchard, Hiltz and McCliment, the township's engineering firm, is to significantly extend the right turn lane to about 470 feet with a 130-foot taper.

"If we are going to do a Tri-Party project that actually fixes a problem…that's the one that seems most beneficial to everyone I've asked," said Orion Township Supervisor Matthew Gibb at Monday's meeting.

Gibb told the board he spoke with principals at both LOHS and Scripps, as well as Orion Substation Commander Lt. Bruce Naile and officials from the Road Commission for Oakland County.

All agree -- it's a problem that needs to be solved, and the sooner the better.

"It's a huge frustration," said LOHS Principal Sophia Lafayette, who noted the problem is compounded by the school's large population of licensed teens who drive to and from school every day.

"It's not very safe -- and anything to do with traffic and young drivers worries me."

Although traffic volume is heavy both before and after school, Lafayette said the outbound afternoon rush always seems worse.

"They all leave at the same time and they don't want that long wait to turn onto M-24," she said. "So we've got students speeding through the subdivision behind us to get out."

Orion Township Clerk Penny Shults said she's witnessed the Roundtree subdivision exodus herself, and has "many, many times" been frustrated with jammed-up traffic on Scripps Road.

All totalled, it'll cost somewhere near $80,000 to get things flowing a little quicker.

Thanks to Tri-Party funds, though, the good news is the township will only foot about 33 percent of the bill.

The Tri-Party Program is a cooperative funding mechanism between Oakland County, the Road Commission for Oakland County and participating Oakland County communities, including Orion Township.

Program guidelines allow the township to designate improvement projects located within RCOC rights-of-way, and each of the three agencies provide one-third of the total improvement cost through the Tri-Party Program.

Township officials were warned earlier this year -- as they've been warned in years past -- that funding was anything but certain, but -who'd been warned earlier that Tri-Party funds were in jeopardy, breathed a sigh of relief when news to the contrary was delivered a few weeks ago.

The township has $68,000 left over from 2010 Tri-Party funds, and about $107,000 coming in 2011.

Since the money can't be spent on just anything -- road and some sidewalk projects, primarily -- the Scripps Road project clearly has the hands-down vote, although opinions differ on what needs to happen.

Lafayette, for example, said she'd like to see a left-turn signal at the Scripps/M-24 intersection.

Orion Substation Commander Lt. Bruce Naile gave the idea a big thumbs-down.

The whole configuration of that intersection needs to change," he said. "I'd prefer there was no left turn at all, ever. But elongating the right-turn lane will help alleviate the problem and make it safer."

And "safer" is what it's all about for Scripps Middle School Principal Dan Haas.

"Anyone who's ever been on Scripps Road around 2:30 or 2:45 can see how serious the back-up gets," he said, noting he's seen a few accidents occur in the past couple of years.

"Sometimes you'll see people trying to turn left off southbound Lapeer," he said. "That can be pretty tricky, especially if you're not paying very careful attention -- and with the population of drivers over here, that can sometimes be an issue."

But drivers shouldn't expect to see road crews out tomorrow.

To get things started, the township board on Monday authorized OHM to "perform a design engineering service for the extension of the north turn lane from westbound Scripps at a cost not to exceed $7,000." Once the engineering work is finished, the project will go out for contractor bid.

While the township board agreed unanimously to move ahead with the project, Trustee JoAnn Van Tassel said she'd like to get see some numbers on another project.

"I was the one who asked about Waldon Road, a left-hand turn signal," she said, referring to lists board members individually drew up earlier this year to prioritize potential road projects.

"If we're only spending $7,000 right now, can we also ask OHM to see what it would cost to add the left-hand turn signal? In other words, make Baldwin Road at Waldon like Joslyn Road at Waldon so all four lanes have a left hand turn signal?" The problem is stopping through-traffic on Waldon so those who want to turn south can do so, she pointed out.

OHM engineer Jim Stevens said he'd look into it.

"There may be opportunity to add the signal head for the left lane," he said. "It's a little more complex, but I can certainly have conversations with the road commission to see if its feasible to add the left turn head and change the programming."

Lake Orion Review Editor
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