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East Maple Road to Remain Four Lanes Under New Plan

After a debate that stretched long into the night, the Birmingham City Commission approved a plan that would maintain the four lanes of East Maple Road from Adams to Eton.

East Maple Road will be sticking with four lanes through Birmingham — at least for the foreseeable future.

After a long night of discussion at the Birmingham City Commission meeting Monday night, the commission approved a plan that would preserve the current configuration of East Maple Road from Adams to Eton — with two lanes going in either direction — after the city reconstructs the roadway this summer.

On the line Monday night was whether that stretch of East Maple would be reduced to three lanes, after the engineering firm Parsons Brinkerhoff/LSL Planning studied the corridor last fall.

That plan would involve reducing the stretch of Maple Road from Eton to Adams from four to three lanes (with a center left-turn lane), with bike lanes going in either direction. The plan was meant to fit in well with Birmingham's Complete Streets policy, a now statewide approach to city planning that takes cars, pedestrians and cyclists into consideration.

According to the Parsons Brinkerhoff study, with the same number of cars traveling that stretch of road, reducing the number of lanes on Maple would increase congestion — an item brought up repeatedly during the nearly three-hour-long public comment session Monday night.

However, the report also predicts that with a narrower and hence slower corridor, 30 percent of the traffic that currently travels along East Maple Road would divert to nearby mile streets, such as Big Beaver and 14 Mile Road. In fact, according to the study, if 15 percent of traffic diverts, the amount of traffic on East Maple Road is expected to remain the same even with three lanes.

Commissioners had several options in front of them Monday night, including:

  • the plan to shrink the road to three lanes
  • a plan to rebuild the road as is, with two lanes going in either direction
  • to delay the decision to allow for more information-gathering.

Nearly 50 residents from Maple Road and the adjoining neighborhoods packed the city commission room at for a meeting that lasted past midnight, the majority of whom expressed their opposition to shrinking the road. Those residents cited concern for safety, traffic diverting through the neighborhoods as well as a disinclination to be the guinea pig for the city’s experiment with Complete Streets.

Still, there were others who stood up in support of proposed plan to shrink the road — including three members of the Birmingham Planning Board — noting that the intent behind reconfiguring the road is to slow traffic through that corridor as well as improve the lives of residents walking, driving and biking in the area.

Several commissioners were particularly concerned with the lack of a unified plan for implementing Complete Streets policies throughout the city, though Commissioners Scott Moore, Tom McDaniel and Mayor Mark Nickita expressed a desire to continue studying this issue in detail.

“I’m very concerned with replacing Maple as is because it doesn’t work very well,” Nickita said. “And I think this is an opportunity to find a way to find something that will be better. But do we do it in this minute, or do we wait until we have all our information in place?”

In addition to the resolution approving the four-lane road, commissioners also approved a last-minute resolution — proposed by Moore — that "directs staff to move in earnest and return to the City Commission a program to create a comprehensive plan for Complete Streets in the city."

Stay tuned to Patch for more on the East Maple Road debate and what happened at the Monday night City Commission meeting.

Roger Gienapp February 14, 2012 at 08:48 PM
You are right, Carolyn. I forgot about Derby. What makes me think people will slow down is empirical evidence that shows that the very design of the road affects driver's behavior. That has been proven over and again in progrssive cities that have narrowed roadways and, as a matter of fact, it worked here in stodgy old Birmingham on West Lincoln when the roadway was re-srtiped to two lanes with parking on each side several years ago. Traffic that used to use Lincoln to get to Woodward went to 14 mile and decidedly improved the character of the residential neighborhoods along Lincoln. The predictions from the uninformed were that congestion would increase as would cut-through traffic but guess what....it didn't happen. West 9 Mile in Ferndale is another example. It seems counter-intuitive, but traffic calming works!
Mitch February 14, 2012 at 10:50 PM
When they replaced the railroad bridge over Big Beaver (West of Adams) they should have made it four lanes when they had the chance.
Mitch February 14, 2012 at 10:52 PM
They should have widened Big Beaver to four lanes all the way to Woodward when they replaced the railroad overpass a couple of years ago.
Erica Peresman February 16, 2012 at 03:27 PM
We moved into the Birmingham Estates neighborhood 7 years ago, right after Adams Road was re-configured in the area that goes through the neighborhood. I believe that the number of lanes was reduced as a traffic-calming measure. I don't know what it was like before, but the traffic certainly isn't very calm now. Cars regularly speed through at 35 or 40 mph in this 25 mph zone, despite the presence of the device that tells you how fast you are going. Does narrowing the road actually make drivers go more slowly?
anonymous February 18, 2012 at 09:48 PM
More lanes and pavement are proven to have no improvements on traffic congestion. When lanes are added more traffic is added because it can accommodate it. By reducing lanes, traffic will be reduced - drivers will find better traffic routes for themselves without cutting through your neighborhoods. By the way, why do those people even care about speeding traffic in their neighborhoods? Almost no one walks in those neighborhoods anyway, and if they do, its not during rush hour traffic.

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