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Oakland County road construction targets high-traffic road

July 22, 2017 by Steven M. Gursten

One of metro Detroit’s most treacherous sections of road — between two of the most dangerous intersections — is among Oakland County road construction projects

Oakland County road construction

Michigan’s 2017 road construction season is keeping the orange barrels rolling along, and the traffic jams. It’s about to get even worse.

Two Oakland County road construction projects are in full swing. Each will change the way traffic flows. No one likes these road projects, or the delays they bring. But hopefully each of these projects will make these road locations in Metro Detroit more safe.

Orchard Lake Road between Northwestern Highway and Maple Road in West Bloomfield is getting a long-overdue traffic makeover, as part of the Northwestern Connector Project. After being a five-lane road with a left-turn lane, it’s now being turned into a four-lane boulevard with a grassy median, with the service drives on both sides removed.

For years, this section of Orchard Lake Road has seen drivers from strip malls, office centers and restaurants on both sides of the road get involved in countless car crashes by making sharp left-hand turns off of, or onto, the main road. That’s because the northbound traffic flow is almost always at a constant: Northwestern Highway ends at Orchard Lake, so its traffic merges onto northbound Orchard Lake, then when Northwestern traffic has the red light, the Orchard Lake traffic proceeds north.

This stretch of road begins just a few hundred feet north of the 14 Mile and Orchard Lake roundabout, which we reported as the most dangerous intersection for 2016. (Want to know what other areas in Michigan have crash-prone zones? Check out our new Michigan’s Most Dangerous Intersections page, which has a complete list of high-crash intersections that can be searched by any Michigan city or county.)

I’ve driven this portion of Orchard Lake hundreds of times, as our Farmington Hills law office is just a few miles away. There’s always lots of traffic. Over the years, West Bloomfield, Orchard Lake and Commerce Township have increased their populations, and the infrastructure of the roads simply wasn’t designed to handle such traffic.

The idea of making these sections of road safer is to put up medians that will force drivers to make median lefts — or “Michigan lefts” — in order to more safely cross over.

I’m hopeful that the recent additions of two left turn lanes and signals at the intersection of Maple and Orchard Lake roads will help make the area traffic flow better. After all, that intersection ranks at No. 16 among Oakland County’s most dangerous intersections for 2016, and has appeared frequently on our annual high-crash intersections roundups.

10 Mile and Napier Roads in Oakland County start road construction project to put in a roundabout

Elsewhere among Oakland County road construction projects, a new roundabout is being built at the intersection of 10 Mile and Napier roads, on the Lyon Township/Novi border. The project will include significant reduction of a hill on 10 Mile to improve sight distance and enhance safety.

About 18,500 vehicles pass through that intersection each day, and Hometown Life reports that Lyon Township is on track to have the fastest residential housing growth in southeast Michigan for a third year in 2017.

Roundabouts: love ’em or hate ’em

I’ve written on this auto lawyer blog extensively about roundabouts. Let’s face it, most people hate replacing traffic signal intersections with roundabouts. But statistics do show they prevent car crashes and improve overall traffic flow. Although new roundabouts tend to see a spike in overall car crashes their first and second year, those numbers tend to level off and then fall as motorists become used to them and get better at learning how to drive through them. Unfortunately, that tends to come over time.

The area is closed through mid-October, so if your travels take you into the vicinity, be aware of the detours.

And for that matter, before taking your Michigan trip, our auto accident attorneys encourage you to check out the construction spots on MDOT’s 2017 schedule to see if there will be road work bumps along the way. Also, be sure to review what you need to know about driving in and around road work zones.

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