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In a November 15, 2016 MLive story, Ryan Stanton reports that the latest study of the long fantasized Ann Arbor to Howell rail line estimates its construction cost at as high as $122 Millon.  Potential annual running costs could exceed $13 Million. 

Stanton: "As for potential funding sources for the capital costs, estimates show 75 percent could come from state and federal sources, with a 25 percent local match.

For the full-service option, that includes $91.8 million in state and federal funds, and $30.6 million in local funds."

On Tuesday night, November 15, the results of the study will be presented to interested (or worried) taxpayers at a 6:30-8:30 p.m. Community meeting, held at Slauson Middle School, 1019 W. Washington Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  This is the last of three Community meetings staged by the North-South Commuter Rail group.  The first was held last week at the Northfield Township Hall.  The second was held November 14 in Howell.

WallyMoneyTrain

The cost estimates are vastly greater than the original promises.  Northfield Township Manager Howard Fink is a member of the North-South Commuter Rail (WALLY) working group.  One is forced to wonder if the outrageous costs influenced the fact that the 'Northfield Township' 'Newsletter' issued no public notice of the November 9th WALLY Community Meeting until three hours before the meeting's staging at the Northfield Township Hall.

According to James C. Walker of the National Motorists Association (n.b. a lobbying group advocating traffic laws based on safety, not revenue)

Using the middle scenario of $65.2 million in capital costs and $7 million/year operating costs, here is what that might mean.  If the $65.2 million in capital costs is amortized over 20 years, that = $3.26 million per year amortization + $7 million operating costs = $10.26 million per year total costs, or $28,109.59 per day total costs.  Divided by 835 users per day = $33.66 per day per user costs.

Naturally, we will be told that it will all be paid for with free money.

[Fresh Photos of the Posters!

On the evening of November 9, 2016, at the Whitmore Lake High School, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) hosted a public meeting to provide information about upcoming construction on US-23 between M-14 and Silver Lake Road.  This was a poster session with no formal presentation.  Renderings of the final designs of interchanges, landscaping, and FlexRoute Messaging were shown on easels in the Whitmore Lake High School lobby.  MDOT staff engineers and Brighton Area Regional Director Mark Sweeney answered questions.

MDOT 11 9 2016 Jack Rick University Region Engineer pic1 proc 500w198h

Jack Rick, of the University Region MDOT, explaining the 8 Mile Road interchange.

(Higher resolution photo of Jack Rick explaining the 8 Mile Road interchange)

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Overview of the FlexRoute  (Higher Resolution MDOT US-23 FlexRoute Overview - 110KB)

 

MDOT 11 9 2016 8 Mile Interchange pic 12 proc 500w334h 

8 Mile Road Interchange    (High Resolution image of the 8 Mile Road Interchange - 729KB)

 

MDOT 11 9 2016 8 Mile Interchange pic1 proc 500w334h

8 Mile Road Bridge by night   (High Resolution image of the 8 Mile Road Bridge by night - 600KB)

 

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Daytime view of the 8 Mile Road Bridge   (High Resolution image of the 8 Mile Road Bridge by day - 790KB)

 

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Mark Sweeney, MDOT Brighton Area Regional Director

 

MDOT 11 9 2016 Detours 8Mile to M36 pic2 proc 500w471h 

The old 8 Mile Road Bridge will remain in place while the new one is constructed to its north.

(Higher resolution drawing of Detours from 8 Mile Rod to M-36 (780KB))

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Detour: Barker to 8 Mile Road    (Higher Resolution Image of Barker - 8 Mile Road Detour - 780KB)

 

MDOT 11 9 2016 Detours Territorial to 6Mile pic2 proc 500w493h 

Detours: North Territorial to Six Mile Road   (Higher Resolution Image of N.Territorial - 6 Mile Road detour - 780KB)

The Eastbound lane of the Territorial Road bridge will remain open.

 

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Territorial Road Interchange and Roundabouts   (High Resolution rendering of Territorial Road work - 800KB)

 

MDOT 11 9 2016 Territorial Road Overpass Aesthetics pic1 proc 500w337w

Territorial Road Interchange Aesthetics    (Hi Resolution image of Territorial Road Interchange Aesthetics - 840KB)

 

MDOT 11 9 2016 Territorial Road Overpass US 23 northbound view pic1 proc 500w338h 

Territorial Road Overpass, Northbound View   (High Resolution Image of Territorial Overpass)

(Yes, that is a very vintage Volkswagon van)

MDOT 11 9 2016 Territorial Road Overpass center pier detail pic1 proc 500w662h

Territorial Overpass Center Pier   (High Resolution detail of Territorial Overpass Center Pier)

 

MDOT 11 9 2016 Territorial Road Overpass Southwest birdseye view pic1 proc 500w277h

Territorial Road Overpass, Birdseye view from Southwest   (High Resolution: Territorial Road Overpass, Southwest Birdseye view)

 

MDOT 11 9 2016 Warren Road Overpass pic3 proc 500w326h

Warren Road Overpass Aesthetics   (High Resolution image of Warren Road Aesthetics)

 

MDOT 11 9 2016 Barker Road Interchange pic4 proc 500w327h

Barker Road Bridge Aesthetics    (High Resolution image of the Barker Road Bridge Aesthetic details)

 

MDOT 11 9 2016 Noise Barriers pic2 proc 500w674h LoRes 

Along the northwest shores of Whitmore Lake is the only stretch of US-23 that will have a Noise Barrier.  The red line shows its approximate location.

According to MDOT Engineers, a drain across the path of the barrier may interfere with its construction.   The final barrier may end up being shorter than shown above.

(Hi Resolution aerial view of the US-23 Whitmore Lake Noise Barrier - 800KB)

 

MDOT 11 9 2016 Incident Warning System pic2 proc 500w349h

Flexroute Sign announcing an "Incident Ahead"

(Hi Resolution image of the US-23 Flexroute Sign announcing an "Incident Ahead" - 800KB)
 

The MDOT US-23 FlexRoute Project webpage

The History of US-23

MLive: Ann Arbor U.S. 23 'Flex Route' cost-effective fix to traffic jams, MDOT says, Lindsay Knake, November 10, 2016

"While it's the first active traffic management system in the state, there are similar systems in Illinois, Washington and West Virginia, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration."

Livingston Daily: U.S. 23 construction of Flex Route starting Monday, Jennifer Eberbach, November 3, 2016

Residents in Livingston and Washtenaw counties have been invited to learn about upcoming improvements to U.S. 23 between Brighton and Ann Arbor, a congested and aging stretch of one of Michigan's most heavily traveled freeways.

A public meeting with Michigan Department of Transportation officials will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Whitmore Lake High School, 7430 Whitmore Lake Road.

The estimated cost is about $92 million.

Livingston Daily: Three roundabouts coming to Eight Mile, Jennifer Eberbach, October 13, 2016

Mike Goryl, a traffic engineer for the Livingston County Road Commission, said they would "be like (three) Chilson and Coon Lake roundabouts side by side," which will be "simple, single-lane roundabouts."

"You should not have the same issues" that motorists have at Lee Road, Goryl said.

8 Mile Road Interchange Plans.  The current bridge will remain in place during construction.

Livingston Daily: MDOT officials discuss US 23 revamp, Jennifer Eberbach, October 3, 2016

This FlexRoute system, along with bridge, ramp and road work is expected to cost around $120 million.

"You don't have to put a permanent third lane out there," MDOT University Region Engineer Paul Ajegba said.

"You have a peak-hour congestion problem in the morning and in the evening in each direction. This solves that problem and it's less expensive," Ajegba said.

Livingston Daily: Slew of US 23 projects to revamp congested corridor, Jennifer Eberbach, September 28, 2016

The U.S. 23 corridor project will involve replacing bridges, widening bridges and installing a new "Flex Route" traffic-management system with electronic signage along the freeway in Washtenaw and Livingston counties. The complex, multifaceted project will also include bridge repairs, upgrades to ramps and medians, and pavement repairs.

 

Livingston Daily:  Lee Road roundabout redo considered, Jennifer Eberbach, June 10, 2016

When the roundabouts were built, it was assumed that traffic volume would increase over time. The Michigan Department of Transportation built the one in question in 2006 with the involvement of the nearby Green Oaks Village Place mall.

They were designed to handle 2030 traffic volumes.

However, in 10 years, the number of vehicles that use hasn't really changed.

2010 aerial image of the 3 lane roundabout at Lee and Whitmore - Livingston County Road Commission

Livingston County Road Commission Concept: Changes to Whitmore Lake Road at Lee Road Roundabout

 

 

 

 

WALLY MI Train Banner 360w

What can explain only giving us three hours notice of this meeting?

From: Northfield Township <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: November 9, 2016 at 3:18:30 PM EST
Subject:Newsletter - Community Meetings TONIGHT
Reply-To: Northfield Township

 

North-South Commuter Rail Feasibility Study Community Meeting

       Wednesday, November 9, 7:00-9:00 PM

       Northfield Township Offices - Board Room
       8350 Main St
       Whitmore Lake, MI 48189


The North-South Commuter Rail (WALLY) is a proposed 27-mile long commuter rail service on existing tracks that would connect Ann Arbor and Howell, with intermediate stops along the way. The intent of this meeting is to provide an update on the status of the North-South Commuter Rail project including a summary of service options evaluated, costs and ridership. There will be a presentation at the beginning of the meeting followed by discussion to answer questions and obtain public input on the project and the process. For additional information, please contact Michael Benham at AAATA at (734) 794-1851 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

http://www.theride.org/AboutUs/News-Events/News/ArtMID/2233/ArticleID/1172/North-South-Commuter-Rail-Feasibility-Study

On May 5th the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners no-voted the possibility of an August ballot measure granting a 0.5 mil tax revenue stream to a revenue starved County Road Commission.   There was disagreement over Road Commission plans to reserve 20% of the revenue for non motorized paths.

Ryan Stanton's MLive reports:

At the March 29, 2016 Township Board meeting, the Road Commission presented its 2016 report.  It describes road conditions and a list of co-fundable road repair and maintenance projects.  WCRC Managing Director Townsend says he is budgeted only $1,500 per mile per year to do the work.  He said that the 0.5 mil millage on an upcoming ballot would help.

Here's the report.  It's about 5.7 MB in size.  As a service to you, the nine sideways pages in the original document were extracted and rotated.  The entire document may be read on your computer screen.  It's a pure pdf so you can zoom in as much as you like.

Washtenaw County Road Commission 2016 Annual Report to Northfield Township

MDOT's March 31, 2016 Press Release:

Contact: Kari Arend, MDOT Office of Communications
Fast facts:
- On March 10, the 8 Mile Road bridge over northbound US-23 was demolished due to damage suffered from an earlier crash.
- The 8 Mile Road bridge will be repaired and reopened to traffic this summer.
- Construction and travel information is available on the MDOT Mi Drive website and app:
www.michigan.gov/drive.

March 31, 2016 -- The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), in cooperation with Northfield Township, has announced that starting this spring the 8 Mile Road bridge over northbound US-23 in Washtenaw County will be repaired and reopened to traffic this summer. Reopening the bridge in 2016 will restore emergency response time and assist businesses in the community during the busy summer travel months.

Livingston Daily: Protest signs did not work for I-96 neighbor, Jennifer Everbach, 6/5/2015

Traffic noise is a problem for Brighton Township resident Dan Driver.  He lives on top of a hill south of I-96, overlooking the eastbound on-ramp from Spencer Road.  Driver's request for a noise barrier turned into protest signs but his complaints have not helped. 

- From the MDOT news and information page:

Between approximately March and August, M-14 will be closed between Main Street and the Miller Road/Maple Road interchange, with a detour posted. Through-access will not be available along this section of M-14 during the closure. The posted detour will include US-23, I-94 and M-14.

On November 12, 2015, MDOT hosted an Open House at the Northfield Township Hall to ask for opinions about the architecture, design, and landscaping of the US-23 Corridor project.

This was a poster session.  To explain and answer questions about the 34 poster sized renderings were an almost equal number of MDOT Engineers and Landscape Architects from MDOT's landscape architecture consultant, Parsons.

Below are links to images of the posters, captured by a handheld camera, in the order they were placed around the room. 

Washtenaw County residents will once again pay for road improvements through a one-year property tax increase.  The county's board gave final approval to a renewal of the 0.5-mill tax first approved in October 2014

This is a grab bag of links to roads related news stories.  It gets updated whenever something interesting hits the news media.  As an example of what's in the list, we've linked to over 100 reports on the 2015 MDOT budget battle, every gruesome moment of it as reported by the Detroit, Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Livingston County papers.  We've found links to coverage of the Federal Highway Bill, WALLY, mass transit efforts, Michigan rail, Regional planning organizations like SEMCOG, the RTA, etc. etc. etc.  You'll also find links to MDOT's Youtube channel, where highway and bridge engineering and projects are documented, Michigan's Paser road ratings and a couple of guidebooks explaining Paser.  Happy hunting.

MiDriveBanner 113w35h   - Click for Road speeds, Cameras, Accidents, Construction, Snowplow locations (with and without cameras)

MDOT's MiDrive webpage shows current traffic conditions, incidents in progress, road hazards, road construction, road closures.  In short, everything you need to know about Michigan roads and highways except who's paying for next year's upkeep.

 

 

 

In an April 15th 12-9 vote, the WATS Policy Committee has approved MDOT's US-23 improvement plan.  Further approval is now in the hands of SEMCOG.

UPDATE: At the April 28th Board of Trustees meeting, Township Manager Fink reported that SEMCOG has also approved the US-23 corridor improvement plan.

UPDATE: June 30, 2015: The U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, issued a Finding of No Significant Impact [FONSI] for the U.S. 23 corridor improvements project.

At the March 24th Board meeting, Washtenaw County's Road Commission delivered its annual report on the state of local roads.  Northfield Township was asked to choose from a list of optional road repair projects.  Each project requires a Township contribution.  Our Board will contribute $130,000, which barely covers the repair of two miles of dirt road. 

You can read the report online here.  You may download the pdf here. (the pdf is 6MB)

For background, I have linked to two references explaining and illustrating, with  drawings, and photographs, most of the roadwork terminology used by the Road Commission, MDOT, and our Township Manager.

MDOT maintains a library of maps detailing its real estate and right-of-ways here.  We have labeled the links to the maps of local interest, the land bordering US-23 as it passed through Northfield Township and north to I-96.

In MDOT's library, Washtenaw County has been divided into about 140 numbered maps.  Livingston County has been subdivided into about 90 maps.   This is the overview/index of Washtenaw County maps.   This is the overview/index of Livingston County maps.   Here is the document explaining the surveying and MDOT symbols.

The list of maps is below.  Click Read more to get to the list of maps.

This is the most recent traffic study for the Territorial Road at Whitmore Lake Road intersection and area. 

The study was prepared for the Nowatzke application and delivered to the Board of Trustees September, 2014.  It is readable online here and may be downloaded, from here, as a pdf.

MDOT has accepted no responsibility for improving this area.  It will not be included in the US-23 Corridor improvement program.

Detroit News: Prop 1 suffers worst ballot smackdown in decades - Chad Livengood, Leonard Fleming, May 7, 2015

Proposal 1 suffered the worst defeat Tuesday of any Michigan constitutional amendment ballot measure since the current constitution was adopted more than a half-century ago, as 80.1 percent of voters rejected the sales tax increase and road funding plan.

- story by Wayne Peal, the Detroit Free Press

"It's a go," said Michigan Department of Transportation project engineer Jim Daavettila. "The project is already authorized and doesn't depend on the May 5 sales tax vote."

UPDATE: June 30, 2015: The U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, issued a Finding of No Significant Impact [FONSI] for the U.S. 23 corridor improvements project.

UPDATE: The US-23 corridor improvement project has been approved by WATS and SEMCOG.  This was reported to us by Township Manager Howard Fink at the April 15th Planning Commission Meeting (in the case of WATS) and at the April 28th Board of Trustees Meeting, in the case of SEMCOG.

MDOT, Michigan's Department of Transportation, presented updated plans for the US-23 corridor at an August 14th meeting in the Township Hall.  The MDOT presentation documents are here.  The 2009 feasibility studies, broken down into five parts, documenting everything from the value of freight carried annually to environmental constraints, are here.