Big Rapids public safety asks MDOT to re-evaluate intersection

The intersection of Michigan Avenue and Maple Street, in Big Rapids, is pictured Tuesday. The Michigan Department of Transportation is re-evaluating the intersection at the request of public safety officials who say the crossing may be dangerous for pedestrians. (Pioneer photo/Tim Rath)

BIG RAPIDS — The Michigan Department of Transportation is re-evaluating the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Maple Street, in Big Rapids, at the request of public safety officials who say the crossing may be dangerous for pedestrians.

Big Rapids Public Safety Director Jim Eddinger said after speaking with MDOT officials, the state agency agreed to send an engineer to Big Rapids to investigate traffic lights at the intersection. Depending on the results of the investigation, Eddinger said, MDOT may alter the amount of time pedestrians have to cross the street and cars have to make a turn.

“Each one of these signals are designed to interact with each other and sometimes they can malfunction,” Eddinger said. “These issues also could be related to traffic patterns.

“We’re worried about pedestrians getting hit. The typical situation is someone is waiting for the light to change and they race around that corner too quick. We’ve been fortunate that we haven’t had fatalities at that intersection, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Issues at the corner have cropped up intermittently over the past several years, Eddinger said, but came to a head recently when a pedestrian said she was nearly struck while crossing Maple.

Carlleen Rose, the owner of the Old Pioneer Store and Emporium business in downtown Big Rapids, said she was following the rules for walkers but was nearly struck by a sport-utility vehicle turning from Michigan onto eastbound Maple about two weeks ago.

Rose was unhurt, but frightened — and as a member of the Big Rapids Housing Commission, she felt she had to do something in the interest of the roughly 50 senior citizens who live in the Nisbett-Fairman Residences nearby. She complained to Eddinger, who then pulled footage from cameras set up at the intersection by BRPS, confirming Rose’s account of the events.

“I’ve talked to several people who told me they had dealt with similar situations before I called Jim. I felt the time had come to address this,” she said. “Lesson learned — even when you do everything right, you can put yourself in harm’s way. We want everyone to be safe.”

Rose and Eddinger both said they were pleased to hear MDOT is looking into the situation.

“I wish they would evaluate Michigan and Maple, State Street and Maple, and the one at the far east side of town (3rd Avenue and Maple), because it can be some real bottlenecks around town,” Rose said.

The last time the signals were evaluated is unknown, Eddinger said, but it’s safe to say downtown has changed the past few years in ways that can affect traffic.

“It’s been awhile since they’ve been downtown to analyze it, and there’s been some changes, not just at that intersection but some others. Driver behavior also has changed — everyone’s on their cell phones now. So, it’s just time to reconsider some things,” he said.

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Posted by Tim Rath

Tim is the Pioneer's associate editor. He also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Veterans pages. He can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at trath@pioneergroup.com.

One comment on “Big Rapids public safety asks MDOT to re-evaluate intersection

  1. avatarginny

    Drivers don’t seem to yield to pedestrians anymore. Especially worrisome when the school kids are simply trying to get home from school. Better signage and light timing should help.

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