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West Bloomfield Beacon
By Eric Czarnik, C & G Staff Writer
July 29, 2009
Construction has started at the Maple-Drake roundabout, and the situation has earned mixed reactions from residents and businesses in the area. Since mid-July, the Road Commission for Oakland County has blocked off traffic on Drake Road near Maple Road. The purpose is to build a high-intensity activated crosswalk, or HAWK system, that will let pedestrians push a button to stop traffic and cross the roundabout.
Drivers are encouraged to use a detour via Farmington Road until the roadwork ends in August.
According to Ann Corwell, executive director of the Greater West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce, local chamber members have not complained about the construction.
"I have not heard anything significant in terms of the roundabout adversely affecting business," she said.
But at least two residents were more critical. Napoleon Quick, a board member of the Maple Place Condos, predicted that the HAWK system would be ineffective because cars enter the roundabout at excessive speeds. "It will be a joke, a laughing joke," he said.
West Bloomfield resident Robert Rosenfeld called the project and its spending "ridiculous" in a time when funding is tight.
"It's just awful, with all the money that needs to be spent on the roads in West Bloomfield," he said.
"Where's all this money coming from?" The HAWK system installation arose from a court agreement between the RCOC and attorney Richard Bernstein of The Bernstein Law Firm in Farmington Hills.
Bernstein took the Road Commission to court on behalf of three disabled plaintiffs who wanted to cross the roundabout safely.
RCOC spokesman Craig Bryson said the project's $795, 000 price tag is divided into two parts.
The RCOC will pay $600, 000 of the cost to install the HAWK system, and private developers will pay the rest on access work adjacent to the roundabout.
Although Bryson called the payment a financial burden, he said the RCOC was able to use special legal reserves it had in escrow.
"We don't disagree with the intent of trying to find the best way possible to address pedestrians at roundabouts," he added.
Bernstein said he has talked to countless people locally and nationally about the roundabout issue in the last month. He recognized the project's costs and inconveniences, but he believed the HAWK system will protect both the disabled and the able-bodied, namely children and bikers.
"We'll never know just how many lives and how many people are going to be saved by this," he said.
Once the HAWK system is activated, Western Michigan University will study its effectiveness. Other cities and states will be watching the study results to see whether the system should be applied to their roundabouts, Bernstein said.
In other road-related news, the RCOC and West Bloomfield have officially signed an agreement to resurface Orchard Lake Road between 14 Mile and Maple roads. The agreement splits up the $1.2 million in costs, and it sets a project start date of mid-to late-August, Bryson said.
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