Farmington Hills neighbors frustrated by utility project traffic

Residents in a quiet Farmington Hills neighborhood have seen their street become a raceway, as motorists zip through to avoid construction on Middlebelt Road.

Consumers Energy this month shut down Middlebelt from Grand River to Shiawassee to replace a gas main. Completion is expected by the end of August.

Sarah Haigh, who lives with her family in the area south of Nine Mile and east of Middlebelt, can’t imagine another two months of constant traffic. She said neighbors have already worked with the city to keep vehicles leaving Bates Hamburgers from shooting down Tulane to Grand River.

But since Consumers Energy started work on June 15, she said, “It has been horrible.”

Smart Bus
SMART bus drivers were cutting through Tulane until Sarah Haigh contacted the company. (Sarah Haigh)

At one point, she counted 100 cars in a two-hour period, many speeding and blowing through stop signs.

“I had to reach out to SMART (regional bus company) two times, and they finally stopped coming through,” she said.

City of Farmington Hills traffic engineer Mark Saksewski said the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) authorized the project; Middlebelt Road falls under the county’s jurisdiction. Detour signs, he said, are “where they’re supposed to be,” directing traffic from Grand River to Orchard Lake Road to Nine Mile Road, back to Middlebelt Road and vice versa.

City officials commented on project plans and did their best to represent resident concerns, Saksewski said. For instance, they asked that crews work six, 10-hour days, rather than the proposed four, 10-hour days.

“We did everything we could to improve access and minimize conflicts… and to push our agenda,” he said.

The Hills Police Department has done some traffic enforcement, and Saksewski said it may just take people some time to figure out the correct detour. “We like to give it a few days to settle down. It may be we close Tulane at Shiawassee.”

Residents who have issues like this with county or utility projects should not hesitate to call the city, he said.  “If you’re our resident, we’re happy to discuss the issue with you. We have better contacts with the county and the utilities, and we can be that impartial party.”

Slow Down
Sarah Haigh has placed signs along the boulevard reminding motorists to slow down. (Sarah Haigh)

Haigh, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1994, feels the detour signs aren’t well placed. She’d also like to see traffic cones that prevent turns into the neighborhood.

To remind motorists the neighborhood is not a race track, and to “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here,”  Haigh had some of her own signs made.

“My kids love to ride their bikes off the lawn, but we can’t allow that right now,” she said. “We have lots of kids here, and a lot of new families. This is a real up-and-coming area.”

Reported by