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The Jewish News
Pending reopening of Drake-Maple intersection spurs debate.
By Don Cohen, Special to the Jewish News
August 30, 2007
The new roundabout at Maple and Drake in West Bloomfield is scheduled to open on Aug. 31 or Sept. 1 weather permitting, says Craig Bryson, public information officer at the Road Commission for Oakland County.
On Sept. 4, construction of a roundabout is scheduled to begin at Farmington and Maple roads with Farmington Road closed.
The good news is that it appears the intersections will not be closed when Rosh Hashanah begins on Wednesday evening, Sept. 12. The bad news, according to Richard Bernstein, the Farmington Hills attorney who brought a lawsuit on behalf of blind and disabled clients under the Americans With Disabilities Act, is that roundabouts put pedestrians at risk.
Bryson is confident that pedestrian and driver concerns abut the roundabouts will be largely allayed once they see how well designed and easy to navigate they are. He says the design of Oakland County roundabouts – as well as signs, flashing lights and pavement markers, including brightly painted pedestrian crossings – will improve safety at intersections that have never been optimum for pedestrians.
“We’ve done more on this project than we’ve ever done before,” Bryson says, noting years of public and private informational meetings, flyers, brochures, and public access broadcasts and use of the mass media.
Nonetheless, he understands the apprehension that some have to using a busy intersection with no traffic signals. “There is generally public opposition to roundabouts before they go in,” Bryson says, noting opposition is much larger than support.
“But if you look a year or two after they go in,” he continues, “they flip” with support overwhelming opposition.
Bernstein isn’t convinced and sees roundabouts as a disaster waiting to happen. “There is going to be a kid who is going to be killed. I don’t think there is any question about it,” he says.
“The disabled have the same safety concerns as kids, pedestrians and bicyclists,” Bernstein says. “It is dangerous for all kinds of people. Roundabouts are designed exclusively for vehicles, and to move traffic. All we’re asking is that they make them safe for pedestrians.”
Bernstein says it is “physically impossible” for many disabled to safely cross a roundabout; he says he has expert testimony that will ensure they will be ruled illegal.
He says the Maple-Drake roundabout’s proximity to a large Jewish community, including those who walk to synagogue and use the Jewish Community Center, make this a serious problem for the Jewish community.
“We want everyone to be able to cross the street safely. While religious people don’t have a cause of action, the disabled do. It needs to be safe and accessible for disabled and non-disabled alike,” he says.
But while Bernstein’s case winds through the courts, we’ll get a chance to assess the roundabouts for ourselves and hopefully safety, as well as traffic flow, will be a prime concern of those using them.
See www.nwconnector.com/education for information on how to use roundabouts, for videos and other aids from many communities that are using them. Also, contact the road commission’s Department of Citizen Services (DCS) toll-free at (877) 858-4804.
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