Harrison Road Fix Reduces Car Lanes, Adds Bike Lanes

Monday, August 29, 2016, 7:50 am
Alice Dreger

Residents who live around the northern end of Harrison Road are singing the praises of East Lansing’s Department of Public Works following this summer’s fix of the road from Saginaw Highway to Lake Lansing Road. An informal survey of homeowners in the Pinecrest, Harrison Meadows, Northern Meadows, and Shaw Estates neighborhoods produced all thumbs-up for the new design, the quality of the work, and especially for City staff’s steady communication with neighbors about the project’s progress.

The street was put on what traffic engineers call a “road diet”—reducing car lanes from four to three and adding a dedicated bike lane on each side. The center lane is now a turning lane.

Northern Meadows neighborhood resident Arthur Slabosky, a former traffic safety engineer with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), explains why the new design is safer: “center left-turn lanes typically reduce rear-end left-turn crashes by 80 percent compared to situations where drivers turn left from through-lanes.”

Slabosky says Harrison Road’s “diet” also means easier crossing for pedestrians, “safer use by bicycles in the lanes, a buffer from cars for residents when they reach their mail or mow their lawns,” and cars driving slower because, with only one lane in each direction, drivers are limited in speed by the driver in front of them.

Harrison Meadows resident Jim Veurink told me he is “thrilled” by the new lane reconfiguration. Veurink lives two houses east of Harrison Road and he says the new configuration better fits the street’s residential neighborhood feel. He adds “that the street is more bicycle-friendly, which adds to the appeal and safety of our neighborhoods…. My feeling is that this change brings our area a step closer to being more neighborhood-friendly and safer.” He says he already notices a positive difference in traffic flow.

Pinecrest resident Mike Vasievich told me “the new road sure is smooth” compared to what had been a very pockmarked surface. He adds that he has not yet seen bicyclists using the new lanes and has heard some concerns about drivers using the center lane for passing, which is illegal and, he notes, “dangerous.”

Vasievich told me that DPW Traffic Engineer Steve Roach “provided periodic email updates on the status of the project. I forwarded the updates out to our Pinecrest email list and I know that the status reports were very much appreciated.” Vasievich added that “the neighborhood residents appreciate that the project was completed on time.”

Director of Public Works Scott House is also happy with how the project went. He told ELi, “the neighborhoods and residents have been great to work with and very understanding during the entire project, and we really appreciate their flexibility and support. Further, Steven Roach from the Engineering team did a great job on this project as the principal designer and project manager.”  

House explains that it was a major project: besides employing an innovative new system of soil testing, “the scope of work for this project includes spot base repairs, spot drainage repairs, curb and gutter repairs, ADA [disability] ramp upgrades, asphalt milling, asphalt paving and a road diet transitioning the street from a four to three lane cross section with bike lanes. In addition, the BWL is upgrading the street lights with LED fixtures.”

House said that the final bills are not all in, but the project is estimated to cost about $1.3 million. Out of that, about $1.1 million came from the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, including $939,000 in federal funding and a local match of $208,000. The Transportation Alternative Program funded the bike lanes, drawing $117,000 in federal funding with a local match of $29,000. The rest came via State Act 51.

According to engineer Roach, residents may see some flooding along the new road path during heavy rain while the construction project’s silt sacks are still in the storm water catch basins. “Until vegetative cover is established, the sacks will remain in place,” Roach told me. After that, they’ll be removed and the drains are expected to work in the usual fashion.


You can watch a short video, shot by local bicycling advocate Tim Potter, showing Harrison Road's new bike lanes.

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Note: This article was changed after publication to correct Arthur Slabosky's neighborhood affiliation and to correct which side of Harrison Jim Veurink lives on.