Recently the topic of pedestrian safety has gotten increasing coverage in the local print and online newspapers and on social media platforms. The following is a message from Mayor Keough, on behalf of the City, on this topic.
The City of Dexter (and formerly the Village of Dexter) takes pride in being a walkable, accessible community and we have worked hard over the past 20 years to make the town safe and pedestrian friendly for all users. The downtown streetscape, in the late 1990's, was the first example of a project aimed at improving pedestrian safety. Over the years since the streetscape, we have expanded our focus to enhance the crosswalks by making them more visible, creating shorter crossing distances, adding advanced signage at designated school crossings, and adding lighting. We have also made the crosswalks ADA compliant. We continue to look for ways to enhance pedestrian safety in the community. Most recently in 2014, we worked cooperatively with the schools to add the crosswalk island on Baker to minimize the number of lanes pedestrians have to cross. We have also added sidewalk to our “grid” to enhance connectivity.
Dexter Community Schools (DCS) recently engaged a consultant to evaluate installing Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) at 4 crosswalk locations (Baker Road between Creekside and Bates, Ann Arbor Street at Kensington and two locations on Dan Hoey). The first draft of this report was submitted to the City in July 2018. The City's engineering consultant OHM reviewed the draft and submitted questions/feedback to DCS in August. A second draft was submitted to the City on October 29, 2018. OHM reviewed the draft and a conference call was conducted on October 31st where the City provided some questions and comments. The City also asked for some back up documentation that was referenced in the report. On December 17, 2018, the consultants for the Schools completed an updated report. The City and Schools are set to meet on January 11th to discuss the latest version of their report.
One question that the City has been asked is “Why can’t the City just put in the RRFB’s?” This is because there is a process that needs to be followed whenever traffic control devices, signs or pavement markings are installed or changed. The City follows the rules of the Michigan Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The latest version of that document is from the year 2009 and there is very little guidance information on Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons in that document. The State of Michigan issued a document titled “Guidance for Installation of Pedestrian Crosswalks” in July 2014. This is the document that the City’s engineers have been using to evaluate, at first, the draft report, and now the more recent December 17, 2018 report. City Council is aware that draft reports have been issued and that the schools have been working for the past several weeks on an updated report. City Council has not reviewed or seen the report or any comments from our engineers yet, as they are working to review it and will be getting some questions answered during the upcoming meeting with the School District. Everyone has good intentions here and we all share the same goal of trying to make the crosswalk locations the safest possible, but the City needs time to evaluate the report that has been submitted. There has been communication between the City staff and the School staff, as well as between the City’s consultants and the Schools consultants and construction manager. This communication will continue. It is also expected that as soon as our engineers and staff are comfortable that the Schools report is complete, it will be discussed by City Council.
Another question is regarding the new RRFB that was recently installed near the intersection of Grand and Baker, which became active in mid-December. The beacon was provided as a public benefit during the City Planning Commission approval and City Council approval of the new Grandview Commons project in 2016. That project was approved by means of a Planned Unit Development process, which is available in the City’s ordinance as an approval process for projects that don’t fit the zoning perfectly. One requirement of using the PUD process is that the new development has to provide public benefits. For this project, the RRFB was one benefit incorporated into the project to help improve the existing crosswalk that spans 3 lanes of Baker Road traffic. A second public benefit to be provided by this project is a shared use non-motorized path from Grand Street that will connect to a future non-motorized path that we are calling Phase 2 of the Mill Creek Park project. This project is still in the planning/early design stage.
The City’s engineers believed that the installation of a RRFB near the intersection of Grand and Baker was a good location for a RRFB because it helped pedestrians cross 3 lanes of traffic in the vicinity of an awkwardly shaped intersection. It was installed for all users and the City has been trying to promote and educate our residents and the community about the proper care, caution and use that should occur when using this new crosswalk treatment. A link to recent Mayor Reports that provide more information on pedestrian safety and the use of RRFBs is provided below.
The City will continue to keep the public informed as the review process continues.