Nick Helmholdt and Bonnie Bona
North Main Street in Ann Arbor (US Business Route 23) provides northern access to the city, but serves only vehicular traffic. This 4-lane highway is unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists due to traffic speed (posted at 45mph) and vehicle volume (over 26,000 per day) in a narrow right-of-way between the slope of Bluffs Park and the railroad tracks along the river. High rates of acceleration are typical, contributing to dangerous conditions at existing intersections and frequent driveways. Major rush hour backups occur daily at Depot Street, where commuters are funneled into a single turn lane with small turning windows. Additionally, Huron River Drive, a scenic, shared roadway, and a favorite route for road bikers, meets North Main at its most abrupt pinch point.
In spite of all this, the North Main Street area is a popular access point for recreational uses along the Huron River, and it has the largest concentration of parkland within the city. From M-14, North Main is a beautiful entrance into Ann Arbor, but it quickly deteriorates; the undesirability of this location has reinforced a pattern of property neglect.
We propose a comprehensive redesign of North Main Street from the ramps at M-14 to Depot Street, and continuing into downtown, to create a public space that is comfortable for all modes of transportation. The main goal is to calm traffic (by calming drivers) with a new cross-section of the right-of-way that incorporates a cycle track, a reversible center lane, and logically spaced crossing elements. Strategically woven into this plan are 1) enhancements to the access and interconnectivity of the recreational pathways, 2) consolidated vehicular access to the adjacent properties via a new shared lane, and 3) gateway beautification that reinforces the city’s values.
This plan was informed by the recently completed recommendations of the North Main Huron River Corridor Vision Task Force, which calls for a Complete Streets approach. It then goes a step further in proposing a collection of interconnected elements that work together to create a gateway zone, simultaneously transitioning drivers’ mental states while improving non-motorized access and safety.