By Jessica Mathews /

Plans for the next phase of the Flex Route along US-23 were highlighted during a virtual presentation Thursday and motorists should prepare to see more roundabouts.

The Livingston County Planning Department’s Brown Bag Lunch Series featured MDOT’s University Region planners, who provided a project overview, preferred options and alternatives, and a general timeline. Formal design work will begin this spring, although construction isn’t slated to start until late fall of 2023.

A study was done with a focus on traffic safety, operational needs, and directional peak period congestion. The goal is to meet current and future needs using state-of-the-art traffic control measures with improved infrastructure. It was noted that the highest percentage of crashes are near the interchange areas and there’s a high number of rear-end crashes due to congestion. Other safety issues are short acceleration and deceleration lanes.

As for the project, Phase 2 will pick up where Phase 1 left off at M-36 and travel up to the I-96 interchange. As proposed, the northbound flex lane would end between the Lee Road on and off ramps and transition into an exit-only lane to westbound I-96. The southbound flex lane would start between the Lee Road off-ramp and CSX railroad bridge. An auxiliary lane will also be added along southbound US-23 between the eastbound I-96 on-ramp and the Lee Road off-ramp.

Improvements in the form of roundabouts are planned at the Silver Lake Road and M-36 interchange exits, along with associated non-motorized improvements. Two options were proposed for the Silver Lake Road exit - a single-point urban interchange (like the one at the M-59/US-23 interchange) or roundabouts. The preference by road officials is roundabouts at each ramp terminal that include Whitmore Lake Road and Field Crest Road. A 10-foot shared-use path will be constructed on both sides of Silver Lake Road and through the roundabouts. For the M-36 interchange, a series of three roundabouts are preferred. The bridge there will be reconstructed to again allow for a 10-foot shared-use path on both sides of M-36, and through the roundabouts.

In keeping with the theme of roundabouts along the corridor, Planner Mike Davis said the preferred alternative at the M-36 interchange is a series of roundabouts to improve traffic flow and eliminate the current layout that causes backups and driver confusion on 9 Mile, especially during peak hours throughout the day.

Additional bridge maintenance is planned throughout the Phase 2 route, as well as other ramp improvements. The two Grand River bridges over US-23 and the Lee Road bridge will have maintenance work while two bridges over the Huron River will be modified due to median widening. Planner Kari Martin said ramp metering will be added to the Spencer Road on-ramp to eastbound I-96 to help reduce congestion on the freeway as it approaches the interchange, which will help with merging and weaving at that location.

Preliminary environmental findings were discussed during the meeting and it was relayed that a survey identified federally-protected Snuffbox Mussels in the Huron River. MDOT is coordinating with the US Fish and Wildlife Service on mitigation measures to address possible impacts.

Roughly 50 people tuned in for the Zoom presentation. Some drainage issues around bridge areas were brought up and one resident questioned increased noise while other questions centered on non-motorized components, pathways, and trails.

It was stated that MDOT will be coordinating with Green Oak Township regarding both interchanges during the design phase and how the project plays into the township’s future non-motorized planning aspects. Future meetings will be host by MDOT with the public and stakeholders as the project and design process moves forward.

A copy of the presentation is attached.