| 3 min read | By Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org |
On Oct. 19, State Representative Donna Lasinski (D-Scio) hosted a Transportation Townhall at the Washington Street Education Center in Chelsea, in conjunction with the Chelsea Area Planning Team Dexter Area Regional Team (CAPTDART)
Joining Lasinski for the Townhall was Jane Pacheco, Chelsea City Council CAPTDART member, and a panel composed of Barb Fuller, Vice-Chair of the Board for the Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC), Michaelene Pawlak, Executive Director of the Washtenaw Area Value Express (WAVE), and Jeff Hardcastle, Board Chair of the Huron Waterloo Pathways Initiative (HWPI).
“We share the common goals of wanting to ensure everyone in our community can get to work on time and safely,” said Lasinski near the end of her opening statement, talking about what spurred the townhall. “We share the common goal of making sure our seniors can get to the health care communities they want and need to get to. We share the common goal of making sure those who can’t drive, for any reason, are still able to participate and be productive members of society. And we share the goal that all of us (in the community), if we have the opportunity, to not sit in traffic congestion for 50 minutes a day each day going back and forth to work and that we find a way to alleviate that.”
Pacheco introduced the panel members to those in attendance and gave context on why the townhall was happening.
“The county doesn’t have any sort of planning staff,” said Pacheco. “That means no master plan, countywide. No master transit plan, countywide. No real help for our communities. Each community hires its own planner or community development director, or they hire consultants to help them and its costly. In a way, we’re reinventing the wheel in every one of these townships. I’ve been told our current Board of Commissioners (BOC) is looking at putting together a master plan for the county that may include some transportation aspects.”
“We asked the BOC,” said Pacheco, reading an email between the two organizations. “They said they need to know what the vision is for western Washtenaw county (and transportation). What we would like to see. If there is a new Regional Transit Authority (RTA) plan, how do we envision ourselves being a part, or not a part, of it? Everyone needs to have a sense of what our communities are and in this conversation what work we’ve been doing in a proactive way about putting our needs out there, understanding what our needs are and being able to articulate that so we can be represented in countywide planning.”
When CAPTDART formed around a year ago, they decided their focus would be on transportation for the region.
Multimodal transportation, in other words, more than just roads, was something Pacheco touched on as well as the multijurisdictional aspect that makes planning so complicated.
In addition to municipal governments; CAPTDART, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC), the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), RTA, and the BOC, were other entities mentioned when talking about what goes into planning and execution.
After Pacheco’s introduction; Fuller, Pawlak, and Hardcastle introduced themselves and their programs before the discussions began.
Attendees split into three groups, each with one of the panelists, and were able to ask in-depth questions pertaining to their area of expertise. After a 15-minute period or so, the panelists would rotate to the next group so all three panelists were able to meet in a small group format with everyone in attendance.
While rotating around to the different groups, The Sun Times heard questions posed to Fuller about what to do about roadkill in the road, another stop to Hardcastle’s group heard him being asked about more parking options at trailheads, and in the Pawlak’s group, she was asked about transportation services with WAVE in Manchester
Members of CAPTDART took notes at each small group session on easels and at the end of the townhall; Fuller, Pawlak, and Hardcastle shared a few of the things they had heard from the three groups as well as Lasinski taking a few more questions.
Fuller told The Sun Times there weren’t any recurring themes or questions in the small groups. One thing she did hear feedback about was what she had touched on earlier in regards to deer carcasses in the road. A young man asked what could be done to help and Fuller told the Townhall of the saying the WCRC had and was trying to spread “Don’t veer for deer” citing how dangerous the repercussions could be whether swerving into oncoming traffic or off the road.
Hardcastle heard positive feedback about the many different segments of the border to border trail that have gone up and continue to be worked on while also hearing about the traffic on the different trails.
“(There’s) always a concern of a small percentage of trail users who are super competitive,” said Hardcastle. “Generally, they get a reputation of being rude, whether on the roads or trails. I think we have a little more of that than normal because Ann Arbor is such an athletically driven town. There’s always a small percentage of users but were not building it for them. We’re building it for the families and strollers and training wheels and all of that. We can’t really police traffic on the trails, those are left to county and state officials but those concerns come up.”
Those easels of suggestions and questions will go to each entity that participated in the townhall for future planning.