By C.J. Carnacchio
Communications and Grants Manager
Charter Township of Oxford
“We’re just going to have to live with it.”
That was former Oxford Village Council President Sue Bossardet’s message to the public during the Dec. 4 informational town hall meeting regarding next year’s massive M-24 construction project.
Hosted by the Oxford Downtown Development Authority (DDA), approximately 33 residents, business owners and officials attended to learn more about the $25 million project that will be conducted by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) between March and November 2020.
The road work will encompass the northbound and southbound sides of M-24 from Goldengate St. in Orion Township to Gateway Dr. in Oxford Township.
Bossardet urged folks to be patient and pleasant during the project and most importantly, “make a plan” for getting around once the orange barrels start popping up.
Between Drahner Rd. and Gateway Dr., M-24 will be taken ‘down to the dirt,’ meaning it will undergo a complete reconstruction. When that happens, M-24 southbound traffic will be restricted to one lane only, while all northbound traffic will be prohibited along that stretch. Motorists will be encouraged to use an official detour route.
“The last time M-24 was completely torn apart was over 100 years ago, so we don’t know what we’re going to find in the ground,” said DDA Executive Director Glenn Pape, who noted any historical or interesting artifacts that are uncovered will be put on public display.
Pape indicated the project is expected to go out for bid in early February and by late February, the contractor who is awarded the job should be able to let local officials know what the plan is as far as the project schedule and phasing. The project could start as early as the beginning of March if the weather cooperates. It’s expected to be done by about Nov. 15, 2020, “as long as we don’t have a wet summer or anything like that,” Pape said.
Prior to the actual construction, Pape said “skip patching” will be done along the detour route for northbound traffic. This will consist of making repairs to certain areas, so the road can handle the significantly higher volume of traffic that’s expected next year.
Northbound traffic will be detoured onto E. Drahner Rd., then directed to Oxford Lake Dr., Glaspie St., N. Oxford Rd. and finally Ray Rd., which will take motorists back to M-24. The northbound detour will be limited to one lane as the other lane along that route will remain open to southbound traffic as it is now.
As part of the detour route, some temporary traffic control measures will be implemented. They will include:
Installing a stop sign near the E. Drahner Rd./Oxford Lake Dr. intersection for westbound traffic on E. Drahner Rd.
Eliminating the stop sign for northbound traffic at the intersection of Oxford Lake Dr. and Glaspie St.
Adding a signalized left-turn at the Glaspie St./E. Burdick St./Lakeville Rd. intersection to assist southbound vehicles on Glaspie St. in turning left onto Lakeville Rd.
A traffic signal at East and Glaspie streets that can only be operated by the Oxford Fire Department when needed.
Eliminating the stop signs at Glaspie St. and the Polly Ann Trail for northbound and southbound traffic on Glaspie St.
A traffic signal at the intersection of N. Oxford and Ray roads by Oxford High School.
When the M-24 project is done, Pape said the entire detour route will be repaved, leaving the community with some brand-new local roads in addition to a better M-24.
Oxford Village Manager Joseph Madore noted MDOT previously considered keeping one northbound lane and one southbound lane open on M-24 during construction, but doing that would have meant spreading the project over two years instead of one. It was decided closing M-24 to northbound traffic and finishing the work in one year was the better way to go. “That decision was probably made three years ago,” Madore said.
The restricting of southbound traffic and the prohibition of northbound traffic between Drahner Rd. and Gateway Dr. won’t begin until after work on the M-24/Drahner Rd. intersection is completed. According to Pape, the intersection work is expected to last about six weeks.
As part of the M-24 project, 8-foot-wide paved safety paths will be installed on both the east and west sides of M-24, from the village limits to Drahner Rd., according to Oxford Township Engineer Jim Sharpe.
A center left-turn lane will also be added to M-24, south of the village. It will extend from Drahner Rd. to the existing left-turn lane in front of the Oxford Marketplace shopping center, Sharpe said.
The township is taking advantage of the M-24 project to install a new 7,400-foot sanitary sewer line along the state highway, from Gateway Dr., north of the village, to Oakdell Rd., south of the village. The primary purpose of this pipe — the diameter of which will be 18 inches — is to handle the wave of new development that’s expected to hit M-24 in the coming years.
The village is using MDOT’s M-24 project, which was going to happen anyway, as an opportunity to create a new $2.1 million streetscape. The streetscape is being funded using a combination of monies from MDOT, a state Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant, the village and the DDA.
“We’re not going into debt for that,” Pape told the crowd. “This is simply money that (the village and DDA) put aside for the last couple of years as matching funds . . . It’s a good thing for us. We’ll come out of this at the end of 2020 with a brand-new streetscape . . . and we’re not going to be in debt for this. We’re not bonding it. We’re not doing anything of that nature. We actually started saving up for this several years ago.”
Pape said new street lights and new street trees will be installed along M-24. They will run the entire length of the village, from the northern border to the southern border.
Downtown will receive various improvements designed to enhance the area aesthetically, make crossing M-24 (Washington St.) much safer for pedestrians and reduce noise levels.
Three new pedestrian crossings will be created. There will be one located at the Dennison/Stanton/M-24 intersection, one where M-24 and East St. meet and a mid-block crossing between Centennial Park on the west side of M-24 and the pedestrian alleyway adjacent to the Acheson building on the east side.
Each of the three crossings will include an island in the middle of M-24. These islands are designed to provide pedestrians with safe spaces to take refuge as they travel across the northbound and southbound lanes.
A combination of new planters, new street trees, other new furnishings and a smoother road bed downtown is expected to absorb and lessen the impact of the noise generated by M-24 traffic, particularly the large trucks, according to Pape. He said it’s estimated the “noise footprint” will be reduced by “about 15 decibels.”