Blue Star Highway, Douglas. (March 11, 2013)
DOUGLAS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Douglas city leaders are proposing a plan to improve safety, encourage walking, and boost business on Blue Star Highway, but WZZM 13 is looking into whether or not it's worth the cost.
On Monday, the city council could decide on the $4.5 million project between Wiley and Center Street, which includes adding roundabouts, among other safety features. There are plenty of cars, but not very many people walking at the intersection of Blue Star Highway and Center Street.
"Blue Star Highway is not a very human environment," says Ryan Kilpatrick, Douglas city planner.
Kilpatrick is proposing new safety features on the street, including two roundabouts. WZZM 13 asked Kilpatrick if accidents were a problem in the area.
"The accident ratio is relatively low, but what we have is the perceived environment where pedestrians don't feel comfortable crossing," says Kilpatrick.
The cost of the project is $4.5 million, which is four-times the city's annual budget. When asked about the high price, Kilpatrick responded, "$4.5 million is a lot of money, we probably won't spend the full $4.5 million."
Kilpatrick says the project would span over a 10 year period. He says one reason the roundabouts are needed is because it takes 25 seconds to cross the 80-foot crosswalk. The roundabouts are meant to give pedestrians a place to stop halfway through the intersection.
WZZM 13 went to a number of stores in downtown Douglas, but didn't find a single taxpayer who objected to the project. When asked about the high price, one resident said, "I think it's an investment in the future."
City leaders say the roundabouts are half a million dollars combined, which is a relatively low cost compared to the overall project.
The Michigan Department of Transportation says roundabouts do provide some useful benefits. They have been shown to reduce deadly crashes by 90%. With no traffic signals to maintain, roundabouts save about $5,000 each year. Roundabouts reduce the number of vehicles that have to stop, so they also reduce traffic delays. They also provide an area for green space and landscape architecture.