Farmington Hills officials talk more roundabouts on Orchard Lake

The project wouldn’t break ground for at least another four or five years, but Farmington Hills city officials on Monday looked at plans to put in four new roundabouts on Orchard Lake Road, between 13 and 14 Mile Roads.

The proposal reviewed during a study session is the “preferred alternative” to improve safety, capacity, and aesthetics in one of the city’s most heavily traveled corridors. Other options included reconstructing the five-lane road, or building four lanes with a 36- or 48-foot boulevard for “Michigan left” turns. While the $32.9 million proposal wasn’t the least expensive, consultants said roundabouts at 13 Mile, Firwood, Orchard Creek, and a commercial drive just south of 14 Mile would slow traffic and virtually eliminate the more serious head-on, left turn, and angled crashes at those intersections.

Officials on Monday looked at a plan that would bring four roundabouts to Orchard Lake Road, including this one at 13 Mile.

Assistant City Manager Gary Mekjian said for years, “the vision for this section of Orchard Lake Road was a boulevard,” but the cost of acquiring rights-of-way, in some cases, can cost “as much or more than construction.” In this case, $14.7 million is budgeted for right-of-way acquisition, and $18.2 million for construction.

“We wanted to move forward with a plan that would improve safety and capacity, and get some improvement to the corridor,” Mekjian said. “This is where we landed.”

The city has a commitment of $9.4 million in federal funds, leaving a $5.4 million shortfall that may, or may not, be split with the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC). Engineering consultant Nancy Faught, from Hubbell Roth & Clark, said the RCOC has not committed to its share. She does believe the Federal Highway Administration will come through with 80 percent of the construction costs.

“t would be foolish of them to give you $10 million for the right-of-way phase and not give you funding for construction,” she said.

At best, the city would be on the hook for $5.7 million, which Mekjian said could come from bonding, revenues from the city’s road millage, “Tri-Party” funding (one-third from Oakland County, one third from RCOC and one third from the city).

Ultimately, however, “that’s a topic of discussion for council,” he said. “There’s a few different buckets of money.”

Council member Valerie Knol asked why the city wasn’t pursuing improvements at 12 Mile and Orchard Lake Roads, which she said is a much worse intersection. Mekjian said the discussion would have to include the freeway.

“That’s tens of millions of dollars, we’d have to do something with the expressway interchange,” he said. “I’m getting goosebumps, because that’s an awesome project… It could take 20 years to get all the parties to agree.”

Once city officials have reviewed an Environmental Assessment presented during the Monday study session, next steps include reviews by the RCOC, Michigan Department of Transportation, and Federal Highway Administration. There will also be a period for public comment on the selected alternative.

Massey urged council members to share comments with Boyer, “so that we can move to the next step and not leave the $9 million on the table.”