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Council Conspires To Widen State Street

Council Conspires To Widen State Street image Council Conspires To Widen State Street image Council Conspires To Widen State Street image
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Two weeks ago City Council finally approved reconstruction of the badly damaged Stadium Bridge. Voters approved funds for the repair of the bridge last April, but Council has continually deferred repair while they look for more money to widen State Street. At the meeting, Republican Councilman C. William Colburn moved to once more defer reconstruction of the bridge which crosses over State. When he asked for the deferral, Colburn mentioned the possibility of getting state funds for widening State Street. He needed time to get more information. Administrator Sylvester Murray replied that engineers had reported that structural failure could occur at any time. Last August, an engineering report of the annual inspection stated, "In our opinión the deck of this structure has deteriorated to such an extent that it presents a potential hazard to its users and to the users of State Street below." Democratie Councilwoman Carol Jones pointed out that the amount of money required for bridge repair would be insigniñeant when compared to what a couple of lawsuits could cost. Colburn withdrew his motion. When voters passed the bridge issue last April, it was with the understanding that the bridge would not be widened to accommodate four lanes of State Street. The "League of Women Voters Guide" stated, "Aside from bridge repairs, this proposal is meant to emphasize and assist other modes of transportation and de-emphasize use of the private automobile." The bridge was funded in this manner because this is the only way the funding would have passed. The Ann Arbor News for Jan. 23, 1973, states, The City Hall is that if the improvements to State were included on the ballot, the opposition to it might be enough to defeat the entire package. In making his comments, Fairbanks specifically said more study is needed about what to do with State. Mayor Harris also admitted he did not feel there is enough community support for the State Street project and the widening of Fuller Road to pass these issues. " Furthermore, only $367,000 was allotted on the ballot for the repair of the bridge. This was the amount needed to repair it as two lanes as opposed to the 1 .2 million needed for the work to be done to allow the widening of State to four lanes. Obviously the votersdid not want State widened, nor did they want the bridge repaired in such a way as to anticípate widening of State. However, the issue was worded in a vague manner, and Council feels this gives them the right to appropriate the money in any way they see fit. City Council has chosen to ignore this and has continued with its plans to widen the bridge. The 1974-79 Capital Improvement Budget still contains the recommendation, "Repair of Stadium Bridge over State Street. Second phase will consist of reconstruction of bridge over State to permit four lanes along State Road." The only thing stopping them is they don't have the money. Meanwhile , they have been putting off repairing a bridge that is falling apart until they get enough money to fix it the way they want it. Republican Councilman Robert L. Henry, Jr. said he feit Counci! would be guilty of misfeasance if it wasted money by repairing the bridge without widening State. In other words, why waste money repairing the bridge when we'll just have to tear it down when we build the bigger one? Apparently , there is opposition to the widening, even on the Council. It carne from HRP Councilman Gerald DeGrieck who was quoted as saying, 'Td be going directly against the wishes of the people who voted on this...We would be lying to them if we suddenly say we're going to widen State, when last year we said we weren't." Last Monday, in connection with the same issue, Councilwoman Carol Jones charged the city departments with ignoring mandates given to the city by the people. But the majority of Council still wants to widen that bridge. Two weeks ago, the reconstruction was finally approved in terms of a two-lane State Street; a temporary victory for the voters. Repair won't begin for at least another three months though, while bids are being processed . You can bet that until then, there'll be people scurrying around Lansing as fast as their fat little legs can carry therrT, trying to scrape up that extra cool million needed for the widening. But there is a reason for all this madness... continued on page 14 STATE STREET continued from page 5 The widening of State is part of the City Thoroughfare Plan. The City Thoroughfare Plan is a remedy for transportation problems worked out by City Council in the late 1950's. The plan, which consists of a map and a timetable , was set to unwind over the next twenty years. This type of "set it and forget it" city planning was quite popular at that time, and seems to be much the vogue today. To ensure perpetuation of the plan, Council entrusted it to the City Planning Staff for keeping. Where the City Council and City Planning Commission were elected and appointed officials, subject to political whims, the Planning Staff was a relatively stable body made up of city employees. The Planning Staff would then, from time to time, feed parts of the Plan , through the Planning Commission, back to Council for implementation. This was done according to the Plan's timetable. ''The heart of the Plan is a map of Ann Arbor overlaid with a series of inter-connecting, somewhat concentric, highways. According to the Plan, the answer to the city's transportation problem lies in building lots of wide fast roads to keep all those mobiles moving. But there are a few bugs in the plan. There is the fact that they laid these big beautiful highways over some of the nicest residential areas in town. The fact that this would mean tearing down a large number 'of good houses and aggravating an already serious housing shortage. The fact that people would be forced out of the city and have to drive back in for work or shopping and thereby increase the traffic flow. That the Thoroughfare Plan would harass pedestrian traffic to the point where they would take to automobiles and further augment the problem. That all these four and sixlane highways would attract more big business. The fact that all this would mean that they would need even more roads. Effectively, what the City Thoroughfare Plan offered for mass transit was the paving of the entire city. Parts of the Plan have already been realized. Washtenaw, Forest, Observatory. Jack-in-the-box, Burger King, McDonalds, Texaco, Taco Bell. Some of the citizens of Ann Arbor have seen that the Plan is destroying their city. They have organized to - fight the Plan and have been partially suc continuedonpagel5 STATE STREET continued from page 14 cessful. Organizations like the Citizens Association for Área Planning and the Burns Park Community Association have had a tremendous impact. The widening of Hill Street and the ever-unpopular PackardBeakes bypass have been temporarily itopped. The latest aspect of the Plan is the widjning of State from Briarwood to some unspecified point within the city. Wherever it it is stopped, it will mean more widening. Where do the cars go when they get to the end? It will mean the widening of Hill and other streets, and the same problem all over. The voters do not want State widened and have mounted a strong contingent against it. They have taken their stand on the Stadium Bridge. But City Council is still taking its cues from the same basic Thoroughfare Plan written fifteen years ago. If the Plan gets defeated in one area, they will try it in another part of the city and come back later. Sooner or later they plan to catch the citizens off guard. It would seern that the voters have made their feelings on the Plan clear by no'w. It has been strongly opposed many times. Last spring, both the millage for a mass transit system and the bond issue for bikeways, walks, ramps, and bridge repairs were overwhelmingly approved by the Ann Arbor voters. Yet when Council talks about changes, they talk about altérnate routes and expressway ramps. They see mass transit in terms of automobiles rather than people. It is all part of a motor-city mentality aimed at supporting the - automotive industry and the business interests rather than the environment of the city. These are the interests City Council represents, rather than the people, because these are the interests that put them where they are. A mass transit system based on the use of the private automobile is what they are pushing for Ann Arbor. In view of the housing shortages, over population, pollution, the energy crisis, and the feelings the voters have expressed at the polls in the last year, such a position is untenable.