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Observer & Eccentric
By Sara Callender, Eccentric Staff Writer
March 29, 2009
Pedestrians could soon have an easier time getting through the roundabout at Drake and Maple roads.
The Road Commission for Oakland County recently completed a study at the West Bloomfield intersection in anticipation of installing safety equipment for disabled and other pedestrians to cross.
“We had to complete some designs, including where the sidewalk and the posts for the signals would be installed,” RCOC spokesman Craig Bryson said.
The safety equipment is the result of a lawsuit filed against the RCOC by Farmington Hills-based attorney Richard Bernstein in 2007. He filed the suit in on behalf of three disabled residents in part because, he said, roundabouts are unsafe for blind and disabled pedestrians.
Then, in a national precedent-setting agreement between the RCOC and Bernstein in March 2008, the RCOC said it would test the equipment at the roundabout at Maple and Drake roads that summer. However, the date had been pushed back a few times due to engineering at the site and funding issues.
Bernstein said former Congressman Joe Knollenberg helped secure funds for the $500,000 project.
“This is the perfect example of what's good for the disabled is good for everyone,” said Bernstein, who is blind. “This benefits seniors, kids, the disabled. This is a benchmark case for making sure roundabouts are good for everyone.”
Work should begin on the project by July 13, with completion targeted for early September.
“The Farmington/14 Mile intersection will be closed for about a month beginning April 2 so we can finish up that roundabout,” Bryson said. “We can't start work on the safety equipment at the Maple/Drake roundabout until that is completed because it's the detour.”
The RCOC will install and test automated pedestrian crosswalks with push button systems, called the Hawk. The signal will be placed at each entry point to the roundabout.
When a pedestrian pushes the button, the light turns red to stop traffic. In addition, it emits a chirping sound to let blind people know when it's safe to cross.
The RCOC will test the signals for 90 days once they're installed. If the results are successful, the system could eventually be installed at other roundabouts.
The RCOC is building roundabouts at several intersections to improve traffic flow as part of the Northwestern Connector project. There are a total of three roundabouts so far, including one at Farmington and Maple roads.
“Oakland County is going to become the leader in signal technology,” Bernstein said. “It's the wave of the future. We're getting calls from all across the country. What's great is that the roundabouts will still move traffic safely and effectively, but they will no longer pose a danger to pedestrians.”
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