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Ramp Closings Fray Nerves, Slash Business

Ramp Closings Fray Nerves, Slash Business image Ramp Closings Fray Nerves, Slash Business image
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ïh 'SILANTI - "I'd like to shoot the rJ? vay department." ve been backed up as far as PrOSpCL.1. 'SI." "Business is down 50 to 60 per cent." "It was just plain havoc over here and it stilï is." Traffic jams, local residents having to drive miles to get home or to a shopping center and declining business are just a few of the problems Ypsilanti residents say have resulted from the closing of the Grove St. bridge and ramps off 1-94. The city and township combined efforts to try and prevent the Michigan Highway Department from closing the 1-94 ramps only to lose the case after it traveled from Circuit Court to the Michigan Supreme Court and back again - al] in three weeks. Visting Judge Mark S. Andrews cf Coldwater, while stating he was not ruling on the merits of the case and thus leaving an opening for more legal action, none the less ordered what local government officials had been trying to prevent - the closing of all Grove St. ramps and the bridge thus preventing traffic from crossing 1-94 on Grove. The most serious result has been a decline in business at the Gault Village Shopping Center, to which the only diItect access route was off Grove St. over P94, and a decline in highway-related businesses such as service stations. Jay Hensley, owner of Hickory Hill Guli, directly off one of the 1-94 exit ramps, says his business is down 50 to 60 per cent. "If you want to know the truth - this corner is like a morgue. You see we lost all the highway related traffic. Our service work is okay - in fact maybe a litt!e better . . . and the local people have been pretty good. "Bi't you have to drive seven miles from the city to here and back - and a lot of people don't want to do that. "I'd like to shoot the Highway Department . . . and I really don't want to teil you how much business is off because I don't want other people to know. Just say 50 to 60 per cent." Charles Pollow, manager of the W. T. Grar.t Co. department store in the Gault Village Shopping Center, says it is much the same there. "U's been lousy - it's been very bad. We had our people down from New York to look over the situation before the ramps actually closed and they were quite concerned." Pollow says Grants' business, which should have boomed with the Christmas rush, has remained the same or declined taing the Christmas season. Mü'd say we're down 25 to 30 per cent Ê but there are some other people here Bat are much worse." Pollovv explains that earlier this week all the store managers in the shopping center met to discuss what they could -do to get business somewhat back to normal. He says they decided to publish maps in the local papers showing shoppers how to reach the center plus taking the matter up with the Chamber of Commerce and government officials. And then there's the traffic. Mrs. Mary Goddard who lives at 1336 Huil, on the south side of 1-94, says she comes and goes from work at the Ypsilanti City Hall bef ore 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. each day - and encounters traffic jams each way. Mrs. Goddard who used to come over the Grove St. bridge, a 15-minute drive, says she now must go home by driving down Michigan Ave. to Ecorse Rd. and then over the Harris St. bridge, a much longer route that has taken her up to an hour in rush hour traffic. "I don't know any other way to go . . . I just wait patiently for the other drivers. I'm a little concerned about the Harris Rd. bridge . . . it arches over the expressway at a steep angle and they have barrels of sand just standing there so you can sand the road yourself if it gets too slick. Kids have tipped over the barrels." Mrs. Goddard says she has been backed up as far as Prospect St. in the rush hour jams. Ypsilanti City Engineer Kenneth West explains his department began taking a traffic survey of the area before the 1 suit began, and that it has shown sub-stantial change in traffic patterns. "We now have 2,000 more cars per day going east on Michigan Ave. than we do going west." West explains that traffic on the Factory St. bridge, near the Ford Motor Co. parts plant, has also climbed. "Before the closing we had 1,088 cars per day. Twenty years from now we were projecting there would be 2,176 cars crossing the bridge each day. The last count after the closing showed there were 1,500 cars now using the bridge." West adds, "It's just unheard of getting that many cars across that narrow bridge." The Factory St. bridge is a second altérnate route Ypsilanti residents who once used the Grove St. bridge are üsing to cross 1-94. By going over the Factory St. bridge drivers have access to the new Huron-Whittaker interchange and may cross 1-94 at that point. But during the court hearing on the closing both city and township attorneys pointed out the bridge was narrow and needed repair - and that heavy truck traffic from the Ford Motor Co. parts plant might not be able to cross the bridge safely. The Ypsilanti City Council last week decided it would cooperate with the highway department in realigning Factory and Spring Sts. and repairing the Factory St. bridge. In so doing they will be forced to abandon all or part of the $1.1 million HiAn River Dr. paving project which has been plaguSif T5y fepéatëa delays and setbacks. The city's bonding i capacity is not large enough for bonds on both projects to be issued at the same I time. I THe move bas angered Eastern Michigan University officials who want Huron River Dr. widened and pa ved so it wül serve as an access route to EMU's Rynearson stadium, particularly I since the university will join the MidAmerican Athletic Conference next year. Sgt. Thomas Kelly of the Washtenaw j County sheriff's department, referring to ] the Grove Rd. situation, said "the whole place is a mess. Access to areas as the south side of the expressway is extremely difficult. Ypsilanti Township is cut up a lot by expressways and we have in the past used the expressway to get to those places." Kelly says the sheriff's department patrol must now go through Ypsilanti's business district to get to some of their I calis. He says the amount of time it I takes the department to get a car in the f subdivisión depends a great deal on I where the car is when it receives the II cali, but that it ncw takes the (ipn='f"""t I a-bout three or four minutes longer to 1 reach most places. "Now we have to get off at Huron I (the new Huron-Whittaker interchange) I or drive down to the Willow Run airport I exit and doublé back." Kelly says he does not know of any I emergencies since the Grove St. bridge and exits have been closed but adds traffic in the area "is jammed most of I the time." "On the south side there is constant traffic over ... on one side (side of the street) to get to Harris it is difficult for people to get in . ... and on the other there are no turn arrows so only one or two cars can make it through each stop light." Township S u p r. William L. Gagnon sums it up: "I have been called morning, noon, and night - at home and on the weekends. This is a residential area and these streets were never meant to take this kind of traffic ... we have calis from people who can't back out of their driveways because there is so much tratlic . . . it was just plain havoc over here and it still is." Gagnon says the township plans to continue the court battle to keep the exit ramps open. Since Judge Andrews did not rule on the merits of the case and close the ramps specifically so the Grove I St bridge could be repaired, Gagnon says the township will seek a wnt of mandamus requiring the state to reopen the ramps. _ While the judge's ruling did not state the ramps should be closed permanently, it did not specify the ramps would be automatically reopened after the construction, and henee the township must seek a positive court order. Both Gagnon and West add they have been receiving more cooperation from the State Highway Department on related matters. Gagnon says one of the main problems in the township is heavy traffic loads on residential streets which were not designed for it. "They've quadrupled the load on Ecorse Rd., (the Ypsilanti Township Hall is on Ecorse). At George School south of Ecorse the children must n o w cross what has become a major thoroughfare. We requested a traffic light for that ar-I ea several years ago but were turnedl down, and have now sent a wire to the! state telling them it is an emergency."! Gagnon adds several merchants, 1 ment owners and developers have 1 cussed possible suits against the State I Highway Department betause of t h e I closing but says no concrete legal 1 tions have yet been taken by individual I citizens. He says some service stations may be I forced to go out of business and that I others are considering laying off some I employés in order to meet expenses. "I think the only thing we can do is go I back into court. There are just too many I problems out here to leave the ramps I closed permanently."


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