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.