More Plans Set for S. Fifth Ave. Closure

Detours, contingencies as Aug. 1 closing approaches

When The Chronicle first reported that the one-block stretch along South Fifth Avenue – between Liberty and William – would be closing on Aug. 1, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority hadn’t yet finalized contingency plans for the change, which will affect one of the city’s main southbound arteries through most of 2011.

South Fifth underground parking structure

The view from the bottom of the construction site for the South Fifth underground parking structure, facing Fifth. The project's next phase requires shutting down southbound Fifth between Liberty and William, starting Aug. 1.

This week, the DDA – which is managing the closure as part of the construction of the underground parking structure on South Fifth – released more information about changes in traffic routes and parking, related to the closure.

Those changes include the closing of the downtown post office’s public parking lot, allowing truck traffic on southbound Main Street, and installing a new turn arrow at the intersection of Fifth and William, to allow AATA buses to turn north onto Fifth. Read on for more details about these and other changes to expect after Aug. 1.

Downtown Post Office

Currently, patrons of the post office have access to free short-term parking on the east side of the building, with one-way access off of South Fifth. That will be closed to the public after Aug. 1 – instead, new parking spaces will be added on East Liberty, in front of the post office. Like the existing spots, the new spaces will be short-term (10 minutes) and free.

The mailboxes available for drive-by mailing on the east-side parking lot will be removed.

Library Access

As The Chronicle previously reported, the sidewalk in front of the downtown library’s main entrance on South Fifth has been widened and an ADA-compliant ramp added, replacing the ramp access that had been located on the building’s north side – which is now the site of the underground parking project. Bike hoops that were located on the north side of the library are being moved to the front of the building, and new lighting will be added there.

The removal of the flower planters and the installation of the ADA-compliant ramp is related, in part, to the change of venue for  the Ann Arbor Tranportation Authority’s regular board meeting to the downtown library, starting in August. Library and AATA staff, as well as the AATA’s local advisory commission, had wanted to make sure that that the library was adequately accessible – given the current construction environment – before making the change of venue.

Blake Transit Center

A lane of South Fifth will be used for northbound access – with entrance off of William – by Ann Arbor Transportation Authority buses, postal service trucks, and some workers at the federal building. In the coming weeks, part of the Blake Transit Center pedestrian shelter closest to Fifth Avenue – as well as the adjacent wall – will be removed, so that USPS semi trucks can maneuver into the federal building’s back loading dock.

As part of this change, a new left-turn arrow will be added to the signal at the intersection of William and Fifth, allowing permitted vehicles to turn north onto Fifth, off of William.

Recommended Alternative Routes

Vehicles will be asked to detour to South First as an alternative southbound route – signs will be posted indicating that street as the detour. It is also a one-way southbound street, located four blocks west of South Fifth. Other two-way streets, including South Fourth Avenue and Main Street, are also open to southbound traffic.

Trucks are now prohibited from using Main Street between Huron and William, but after Aug. 1, trucks will be allowed on southbound Main until South Fifth reopens. Trucks will still not be allowed on that section of northbound Main.

Other Parking Changes

In addition to closing the east-side post office public parking lot, several parking meters on the west side of South Fourth will be bagged, taking those spaces out of service. According to the DDA, the intent is to provide more space along Fourth for emergency vehicles, which will be using the southbound lane as an alternative to Fifth.

Nearby parking will remain available in the surface lot at Fifth and William, in the parking structure at Fourth and William, and at metered on-street spaces throughout the area.

More information about the DDA’s underground parking structure is on the project’s website.