For the last couple of years, the city of Birmingham, businesses and many residents having been weighing in on a proposal to possibly redesign the stretch of West Maple Road between Southfield and Cranbrook roads into a three-lane roadway versus its current incarnation of a four-lane road with two lanes of traffic in each direction. As a three-lane road, traffic engineers and urban planners have recommended one lane of traffic in each direction with a center lane for left turns.
The Birmingham Multi-Modal Transportation Board has been studying the road as part of the city's multi-modal transportation plan to confirm if changes should be made to the road configuration when the road is resurfaced in 2016. In May, the W. Maple Steering Committee, along with transportation consultants Fleis and Vandenbrink, recommended to the Multi-Modal Transportation Board that traffic would flow best with a three-lane configuration. It next goes to the city commission for approval of a six-month trial run on Monday, June 1.
It is likely commissioners will approve the plan to try it out, for as some have said, “paint is cheap.” The only difference commissioners may make is to re-stripe the pavement this summer and fall, after the Quarton Road construction is completed, rather than waiting until after reconstruction is done in 2016, in order to more quickly gain information on the validity – or not – of the plan.
This was not a quick decision. Previously, the city commission approved a Multi-Modal Transportation Plan, which is intended to provide guidance for all future transportation projects in Birmingham. The process began in May 2012, when city planners began the creation of a master plan for multi-modal transportation which they believe will transform the future usage of streets, sidewalks, rail, busses, bicycles and other forms of movement in the city for all users. The goal is that as roads and streets are repaired and redeveloped, they will be looked at, analyzed and redesigned with more than just cars in mind.
Originally, W. Maple was also designed with bike lanes alongside the traffic lanes, but in the final analysis, that was scrapped for safety reasons.
Residents living both north and south of W. Maple have flooded the city with complaints, letters and petitions, along with neighboring community Bloomfield Township at a recent meeting, protesting the proposed changes. Several months ago, we agreed with them. But after studying the proposal, we recognize that the traffic engineers and urban planners should be given the opportunity to improve an important roadway.
If it doesn't work, Birmingham can go back to four lanes. After all, it's only paint.