The detour signage from Bird Hill Road leading to Huron River Drive (HRD) was still in place this morning, but the road itself was open again for business. One driver wasn’t aware that the option to turn right from Bird Hill had been restored, but it didn’t matter because she was planning to turn left anyway.
Today’s re-opening of HRD after a temporary closure marked the conclusion of the first phase of road reconstruction plus replacement of sanitary sewers. The remaining work will begin in spring 2009. The most recent of the email updates provided by Liz Rolla, a city planner, since the project was in its conceptual phase, indicates that the final layer of asphalt will be laid towards the end of next year (2009). That layer will erase the seams between the new asphalt already put down and the older sections.
The re-construction techniques used on the road reflect the same concern for the natural habitat that led to the consideration of a permanent closure of HRD to motor vehicle traffic. In order to reconstruct the road properly and on a wider footprint to accommodate bicycle lanes, it was feared that the sensitive natural habitats on either side of the road would have to be compromised.
However, at a public meeting held at Forsythe Middle School in April of 2007, Connie Pulcipher of the consulting firm Beckett & Raeder Inc., fielded question after question from speakers objecting to the possible closure of HRD to motor vehicle traffic. [Pulcipher has since joined the city of Ann Arbor planning staff.] Lloyd Carr, then coach of the University of Michigan football team, was cited by one speaker as an example of someone who chose to motor along scenic HRD instead of taking faster, more direct routes.
The potential permanent closure of the road also raised concerns among neighbors about increased traffic along residential streets that would be used as alternate routes, like Warrington Drive and Lowell Road.
The issue drew enough interest from one of those neighbors, Richard Wickboldt, that he was was prompted to participate on the study committee, and ran for city council in Ward 1 in the August 2007 Democratic primary.
In the end, the city opted to keep the road open to motor vehicular traffic, but sought to minimize the impact on the senstive habitats by making the roadbed as shallow as possible. This was achieved by what the city’s website calls a “burrito” cross section. The burrito shell consists of a geogrid and geofabrics, while the tasty meat filling is crushed rock.