Advocates say Oakland County roadways would be made more accommodating to nonmotorized forms of transportation — and to mass transit — under a proposal tentatively approved Monday by a County Commission committee.
The Complete Streets plan would require future county road projects to take into account the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists and people with disabilities, as well as mass transit services.
County Commissioner Dave Woodward (D-Royal Oak) joined Craig Covey (D-Ferndale) in promoting the plan to fellow commissioners.
However, the commission has little direct say over road projects. County roadways not maintained by the state or local municipalities are administered by the Road Commission for Oakland County, an independent agency.
"What we're saying is we'd like to work with the Road Commission on a Complete Streets plan," Woodward said.
"This is really a nationwide program," said Covey. "We'd like to see Oakland County get on at the head of the train rather than being the caboose."
Road commissioners would be given six months to draft a plan outlining how Complete Streets objectives could be met in Oakland County communities.
Several communities, including Berkley, Ferndale, Clawson, Novi, Oxford and Oakland Township, have adopted Complete Streets resolutions or ordinances of their own, Covey said, as has the state of Michigan.
The Oakland County proposal cleared a preliminary hurdle Monday morning with approval by the County Commission's general government committee. It now goes before the full commission for a full, final vote at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 18.
Despite being pleased with Monday's vote, Covey acknowledged its narrow 5-4 margin indicates the plan faces an uncertain future before the 25-member commission.
"We will be sending out information to all commissioners and, hopefully, we'll be picking up some votes along the way," Covey said.
Virtually all commissioners who spoke at Monday's hearing said they favored the plan — at least in concept. Some called it compatible with the county's own Main Street road enhancement plan, already under way in a dozen communities, including Ferndale and Rochester.
Several commissioners, however, said the Complete Streets plan, as proposed, lacks specifics.
"Does this mean bike paths or wheelchair lanes down Woodward (Avenue)?" asked Commissioner John Scott (R-Waterford). "I'm not sure what I'm voting on here."
Commissioner Jeff Matis (R-Rochester) wondered whether the plan would add unnecessary cost to future road projects.
"I have spoken with the Road Commission on some other projects, and the one thing they mention is cost," he said.
Complete Streets mandates nothing, Woodward said, but it calls on road construction plans to add items such as curb cuts, ramps, pathways and crosswalks wherever feasible. Such improvements would not be initiated in and of themselves but would be linked to future road reconstruction projects involving county roads.
The plan has been adopted in rural as well as urban communities across the country.
Monday's discussion comes at a time when leaders from several southern Oakland communities have indicated renewed interest in a Woodward Avenue mass transit plan, possibly augmenting the light rail plan proposed for Detroit.
But for Complete Streets, "the primary goal is safety," Covey said.
The Ferndale Environmental Sustainability Commission will hold a free public discussion on bringing Complete Streets to Oakland County from 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday at the Ferndale Public Library. Click here for more information.