Pedestrian killed in Woodward accident
A Birmingham woman died on Friday, September 17, after being struck by a vehicle on Woodward Avenue while she was trying to cross the roadway at Brown Street, police said.
Birmingham police responded about 9:15 p.m. to the area of Woodward and Brown Street where the 39-year-old woman was struck. Police said the woman was crossing against the signal and entered the road while vehicles still had the right-of-way under a green traffic signal on Woodward. The driver attempted to stop, but was unable to avoid the woman who died at the scene.
The Oakland County Crash Investigation Team, Oakland County Medical Examiner and Michigan State Police assisted with the investigation. Birmingham City Manager Tom Markus said findings verified the woman crossed against the traffic signal.
The driver, a 24-year-old woman from Bloomfield Hills, immediately stopped at the scene. Police said the driver has been fully cooperative with police.
Markus said police are withholding the name of the victim until all family members have been notified.
“It’s unfortunate that speculation and conjecture stated on social media requires a factual response,” Markus said at the city commission meeting on Monday, September 20. “I would like to ask the public to be mindful that the family is mourning the loss of their family member. We don’t wish to cause more harm by making unsubstantiated statements, and I wish those who participate in social media would keep that in mind.”
Markus said the investigation showed the driver was following all traffic rules and driving within the speed limit.
“I can assure you that timing would have allowed her to cross had she been with the traffic signal,” Markus said. “That wasn’t the case, and it wasn’t the case with the previous accident, either.”
The death is the second fatality at the intersection in just more than a year. In August of 2020, Wesley Stamps, 40, of Southfield, was struck by a vehicle, which took off after hitting Stamps who was attempting to cross Woodward at the other side of the intersection, at Woodward and Forest. Police said Stamps also was crossing against the traffic signal. Police eventually arrested the driver.
While both victims were in the street against the traffic signal, the pedestrian crossing there and others across Woodward have been a safety concern years for Birmingham officials. However, because Woodward is technically a state trunkline and owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the city has no jurisdictional authority to make any changes to the crosswalk.
“Over the past several years, the city has repeatedly expressed ongoing safety concerns from pedestrians at the intersection of Woodward and Brown/Forest to MDOT officials,” Markus said at the city commission meeting. “Specifically, the city has requested the addition of a signal to improve the pedestrian crossing over the northbound lanes of Woodward, the addition of an overhead crossing signal, other pedestrian crossing enhancements and numerous traffic calming measures. The city continues to press MDOT to invest in pedestrian crossing improvements at the intersection of Woodward and Brown/Forest and others along the corridor.”
On Thursday, September 23, Markus and several city officials met with representatives from MDOT to discuss the safety concerns. Markus said MDOT had attempted to cancel the meeting due to inclement weather; however, the city pressed to move forward considering the recent fatal accident.
Markus also expressed city officials' concerns regarding MDOT in a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, State Representative Mari Manoogian and State Senator Mallory McMorrow dated Thursday, September 23, which was also sent to Downtown Newsmagazine.
“Birmingham and many other Woodward communities have spent the last several decades working to enhance the Woodward corridor through the use of pedestrian scale building placement and design, multi-modal amenities, landscaping and other measures to create a human-scale, safe and comfortable corridor for all our residents, of all ability levels, using all modes of transportation. However, cities do not have the jurisdiction to make the required safety improvements in the Woodward Avenue right-of-way, but the state of Michigan does have that obligation.
“It was clear from the ensuing discussion that the MDOT officials in attendance didn’t have the authority to offer any short term or long term solutions to the ongoing safety issues at the intersection of Brown/Forest,” Markus said in the letter.
Markus said MDOT officials at the meeting advised the state could start conducting traffic and pedestrian counts, along with safety assessments. Unfortunately, he said, similar promises were made in the past with no results.
“As the top elected officials in Michigan, each of you has the opportunity and obligation to provide executive and legislative oversight for the Michigan Department of Transportation to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our citizens is protected, and that MDOT takes immediate and appropriate action to address dangerous conditions on our roadways to prevent further loss of life,” Markus said in the letter. “The city of Birmingham requests that each of you execute your executive oversight and require MDOT to prioritize funding along Woodward for the improvement of the pedestrian environment over the vehicular environment, and specifically for safety improvements at the intersection of Woodward and Brown/Forest before another fatality occurs.”