100-year-old redbrick storm drain found
By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
As we reach the end of July, the relentless M-24 project is about halfway done. The project, which officially began in April, reached its apex with the closure of the east Burdick St. intersection in downtown last weekend.
Previously it was reported there were to be two separate closures of the intersection: a shorter two-day closure to replace the storm sewer, then a two-week closure for surface work. MDOT and the contractor decided to combine the work for efficiency and close the intersection until it is complete.
The East Burdick intersection will remain closed until 7a.m., Aug. 10. During this time, eastbound and westbound Burdick St. traffic will be unable to cross M-24 (Washington St.).
For the official detour, eastbound Burdick St. traffic will use southbound Pontiac St., eastbound Drahner Rd., northbound Oxford Lake Dr., and northbound Glaspie St. back to eastbound Burdick St.
Westbound Burdick St. traffic will use southbound Glaspie St., westbound Broadway St., southbound M-24, westbound Drahner Rd., and northbound Pontiac St. back to westbound Burdick St.
“That’s not to say that people can’t find alternate routes rather than going all the way down to Drahner in order to cross,” DDA Executive Director Glenn Pape said at Oxford Village’s July 20 virtual town hall.
The closest intersections on either side of Burdick (Davison St., East St. and Broadway St.) will remain open. “So if you can utilize those as well while you’re circulating the downtown, it’s not the official detour, but those intersections will be open for traffic to cross M-24,” Pape said.
Only the east half of the Burdick intersection is closed. Traffic heading south on M-24 can still continue through the intersection or turn right to head west on Burdick. Traffic heading east on Burdick will also be able to turn right to head south on M-24.
Parking lot entrances off E. Burdick, before the intersection, will still be accessible.
Artifact found and preserved
Ahead of the closure, something unusual was found in the ground just south of the intersection, in front of the Oxford Tap at 36 S. Washington St.
A beehive-shaped mound of bricks turns out to be a storm drain (or catch basin), estimated to be about 100 years old. The oldest engineering records MDOT has of the village are from 1922, and it is likely this artifact was built at that time, according to MDOT engineer Brian Travis.
It was temporarily relocated in front of Red Knapp’s American Grill.
Oxford Township Trustee and DDA board member Jonathan Nold wanted to make sure the artifact was preserved. He jumped on the phone right away to make it happen.
“It’s a part of our town’s history and a fun thing to have,” Nold told the township. “I couldn’t bear to see it thrown away, so I decided to step in and do something. Being a township trustee isn’t just about attending meetings. It’s about seeing what the community wants and needs, then getting the job done.”
The object was too large to go into the museum across the street. It was arranged for Dan’s Excavating, Inc., the contractor rebuilding M-24, to transport the relic to Weigh Station Park, a 0.16-acre rest area along the Polly Ann Trail between Division St. and Louck St.
Preliminary plans are to surround the structure with rustic split-rail fencing and install an informational plaque, according to the township.
“It’s a piece of Oxford history that nobody knew existed because it’s been underground for 100 years,” Polly Ann Trail Manager Linda Moran said. “We’ve got the space, why not put it out here? Let’s make something fabulous out of it! History is important and so much of it gets lost. I think the history of Oxford is pretty cool and it’s more than just the Lone Ranger. We have a lot of good stuff out there.”
Nold thanked everyone who assisted in the effort to preserve the artifact, including Linda Moran, Oxford Township Clerk Curtis Wright (chairman of the Polly Ann Trail Management Council), Oxford Village DPW Superintendent Don Brantley and Dan’s Excavating.
“This wouldn’t have happened without these people. This wasn’t a one-man show,” Nold said. “It takes cooperation to turn ideas into action and I’m just thankful we have a lot of good people around here who are willing to step up whenever you or the community needs something.”
There had been speculation and hope that the project might unearth some interesting historical artifacts, since this is the first time M-24 has been completely reconstructed in nearly 100 years. Not much had else has been found so far.
“They’re finding more pipes in the ground than everyone had hoped for,” Village Manager Joe Madore said at last week’s town hall. “A lot of stuff gets abandoned in projects and decades later you find it.”
Madore noted they are just getting started in the historic downtown portion, however, “so who knows?”
The project is moving along, still on track to finish in mid-November.
“We’ve been told some places they’re ahead of schedule, some places they’re behind schedule, so we’re just hoping the weather maintains and we can get through this and wrap this all up by the end of the season,” Pape said.
To date, work has only had to stop once after vibration monitors were triggered in the downtown.
Currently, the storm water and sewer crew is working north of Burdick St. The sidewalks downtown will be removed soon, once pipe crews are finished in the area.
The project is in “Stage 2B,” as work wraps up on the east side of M-24 (northbound lanes) from Drahner Rd. to Harriet St.
“Stage 3” should begin in mid-August when work switches to the west side (southbound lanes). Stay tuned for when the west Burdick intersection closes after the east intersection re-opens.
M-24 will remain closed to northbound traffic from Drahner Rd. to Gateway Dr., north of downtown. Northbound traffic will continue to be detoured through Glaspie St. or Pontiac St. for the remainder of the project. Southbound M-24 traffic will continue as one lane only.
To the south, from Drahner Rd. to Goldengate St. in Orion Township, the left lanes in each direction and the center left-turn lane will be closed, beginning this week, while work is done in the center lane and median. Traffic will be maintained in the right lanes in both the northbound and southbound directions, so no detour route is necessary.
Last Wednesday, July 22, an additional green arrow signal was installed at the Drahner Rd. intersection after numerous requests. The new signal allows traffic heading west on E. Drahner to make left-turns onto southbound M-24.
Due to the construction, there’s currently only one westbound lane on E. Drahner to accommodate both traffic heading straight through the intersection and vehicles turning left onto M-24.
“It will still be a single lane, but (the green arrow) will at least give those people turning (left) a chance to clear the intersection because right now, it’s tough for them to get through during rush hour,” said MDOT Engineer Brian Travis. “The (green arrow) signal will be what we call a split phase, so (drivers will) have some dedicated time to make that (left) turn, whereas right now, they’re competing against that eastbound traffic crossing the intersection.”
Detour maps and updates can be viewed at MDOT’s website, RestoreM24.info and the village’s website, RestoreM-24.com.