In the discussion portion of the City Council meeting on Monday, Council considered a written request from Joan Roth, wife of former councilman Jim Roth, that dedicated left turn signals be added for north and south bound traffic on Ann Arbor Street at Michigan Avenue. Jim Roth had previously advocated for a left turn light.
When the issue came up in November 2014, traffic consultants from URS had said that including a left signal lane would backup traffic on North Ann Arbor Street. City Manager Todd Campbell shares their concerns.
“The challenge is you can’t create more time,” Campbell said. “So you have to take away time, or in my vernacular, steal time from another segment, another leg, of that light in order to add it to the dedicated turn signal.”
“Because of the increased delays, traffic, as we say, is often like water; it seeks it’s own level. So if it gets backed up on one road, it will go off to another side street to try and get around.”
Councilman David Rhoads said that he had agreed with Roth’s concerns earlier and still does. He believes that not having a left turn signal is dangerous, especially for pedestrians, and he thinks that this concern outweighs worries about traffic flow.
“If you stand in front of say Brecon Grille, and you watch the people who are in their cars, the drivers who are waiting to turn left, they are not looking at the crosswalk,” Rhoads said. “They are trying to see past the people in the left turn lane on the other side to see if they can go across or not, and mostly they can’t until the light turns red, and so there’s a delay that happens there anyway.”
Councilman Dean Girbach said that he shared Rhoads concerns, but he urged that requesting such a change should not be connected to the current Michigan Avenue project. It might create burdensome delays.
Councilwoman Janet Dillon recalled the discussion about traffic backups that had led to an earlier decision not to include dedicated left turn signals. But she now supports revisiting the possibility.
“I think that maybe looking back at it now, at the intersection itself and not just at the traffic, that we should consider it,” Dillon said
Councilwomen TerHaar and McClelland also agreed that the city should ask MDOT to consider adding the signal.
Campbell had already contacted Lynne Kirby, the MDOT representative at the Brighton office. She said that her office does not have the authority to approve such a change and that a petition would need to be sent to the Lansing Traffic Safety Division.
Based on a consensus of those present, Mayor Brian Marl directed Campbell to proceed with a petition to the Lansing office. He wanted to make it clear that “we have no illusions that we are going to get a quick answer to this,” and “we are not holding back any aspect of this project while we ask the question.”
Saline Chamber of Commerce Director John Olsen also addressed the issue during citizen’s comments.
‘I’ve always noticed when you’re coming north, the cars come out from behind the left turn lane, as councilman Rhoads suggested, so people have to watch that and they can’t watch the crosswalk, they just don’t,” Olsen said. “So it seems like that side is the one where we’ve had a lot of problems, where people get bumped.”