Public Poll | Traffic Calming and the Square
Survey | Walking around and shopping downtown should be fun and not scary.
One afternoon on the day before Christmas Eve 2021, a big semi-truck cut the corner from eastbound Michigan Avenue onto S Ann Arbor Street and plowed over a lamp post onto the sidewalk without stopping.
This! During a time when we at Saline Main Street were imploring, nay begging people to come downtown and shop our small businesses and eat at our restaurants with family and friends for the holidays. How incredibly lucky we are that nobody was there on the corner outside Brecon Grille when this happened. Three months later, the lamp post is still missing and replaced by a big orange cone.
Welcoming people into our storefront initiative AKA The 109 Cultural Exchange has brought a few things to light.
One, is that the traffic here is mega loud and mega fast. Racing to make the green light is just how people roll here.
Two. Big truck drivers rely on air-braking when they’re flying and discover that they can’t make the green-turned-yellow light. The resulting loud noise and chugging is often chased by the sound of brick dust in our old downtown buildings falling to the floor in piles.
And three. The noise and speed of through-traffic over multiple lanes makes crossing the road scary for pedestrians, to say the least.
The result? A severe divide cuts through the center of our downtown and severs off our most precious northside retail from southside restaurants. (This is not to downplay our great local spot, Dan’s Downtown Tavern on the northern boundary of Michigan Avenue. I only wish to point out that the restaurants, brew pub and coffee shop on the other side could make a big difference if they were easier to leverage for businesses on both sides of Route 12).
With the recent painful closings of Earth Elements and the Cheese Shop of Saline, and an empty storefront for over a year in the former Pineapple House — we can see that the north has more to grapple with, and that this is due to high-speed traffic and over-sized trucks preventing the back and forth that is so critical to a downtown ecosystem.
Here is a question. Why can’t we make Downtown Saline pleasant for walking and biking, and hanging out? We know it will help the community to thrive both economically and socially. If we truly want a downtown and our businesses there to succeed, we need to make the sidewalks and crossing more pedestrian friendly and safe.
The article “Let Main Streets be Main Streets” by Robert Steuteville in the Congress for New Urbanism’s Public Square takes into account the effect of DOTs on downtowns, and how it plays out among the municipalities that host their routes and roads —
Departments of Transportation, which have jurisdiction over thousands of main streets, have strenuously resisted design changes. This has led to a mentality among community leaders that it’s just too hard to make improvements.
But this idea of reclaiming main streets for people has been around for a long time, and there is substantial empirical evidence that it works. It is time for a renewed effort to break down the opposition at state DOTs and implement more balanced mobility in the hearts of cities and towns across America. This is a project that has just barely begun and it badly needs to accelerate.
Sound familiar? We are not alone!
We know that crossing Michigan Avenue is dangerous. We feel it when we cross on bike or on foot. We feel it when we help our senior family members cross, or take the hands of our children when we cross, or shore up the leash on our beloved pets when we cross. While other communities were able to utilize parklets and social districts during the early days of economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, Michigan Avenue made those projects feel too unsafe here in Downtown Saline. Some of the what-ifs were downright grizzly during City Council discussions. And yet, has anything been done to address the noise and speeds that scare pedestrians and continue to thwart our small businesses from thriving? Will we watch as speeds, air-braking and unlimited truck weights continue to degrade what 4 years ago was a brand new road? Will we allow ourselves to feel helpless as these traffic pressures make us run across Route 12 and shake the very foundations of our classic downtown Michigan brick buildings?
“We go back to some streets more often than others… Maybe a street unlocks memories, or offers expectations of something pleasant to be seen, or the possibility of meeting someone old, or someone new… Because some streets are more pleasant than others, we go out of our way to be on them.”
- Allan B. Jacobs, “Streets: Old Paradigm, New Investment”
Please take the survey before midnight on Friday, March 11, 2022. Let’s see what folks have to say about calming traffic in Downtown Saline. We are ready to go toe to toe if we learn that people want to improve the safety and longevity of our downtown community. It’s short and takes about 3 minutes to complete! Thank you.