The Washtenaw Area Transportation Study (WATS) is holding three meetings to hear area residents’ transportation concerns.
WATS is a multi-jurisdictional agency responsible for transportation planning in Washtenaw County. The agency is mandated by Federal law to provide a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive transportation planning process, which guides the expenditure of state and federal transportation funds in Washtenaw County.
WATS annually establishes project priorities for federal Surface Transportation Program Block Grant funds (also known as STP urban funds) and but National Highway Performance Program (NHPP funds). It is the WATS Plicy Committee Members, not MDOT, that makes the final decision as to how the approximately $4.5 million a year directly allocated to the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti urbanized areas will be spent. In addition, WATS continually monitors the current condition of the county’s transportation system, including roads, bicycle and pedestrian paths, bridges, and public transit.
The three meetings are:
Jan 17, 4:00 PM – 6:30 PM @ Chelsea District Library
Jan 18, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM @ EMU Student Center
Jan 18, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM @ Ypsilanti District Library
On the WATS Facebook page Transportation Planner, Suzann Flowers, posted, “If you don’t like coming to public meetings to talk about transportation challenges that you face, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), post them on my agency’s facebook page. We can’t work to develop projects if we don’t know what you need.”
This is music to my ears and I immediately sent an email expressing my concern and frustration over the 5-point intersection of Mast Road – Huron River Drive – Joy Road with the intention of sharing the results in an article. I was surprised to receive a prompt and encouraging response within the hour.
In her email, Ms. Flowers first outlined the process that WATS takes with the feedback they receive:
“First thank you for your comment. I want to outline the next steps in our process.
- I will collect all comments and keep them for our 2045 LRP planning document
- Once this portion of the plan is complete, we will map comments like yours to show where concerns were raised by the public
- Since our agency does not build projects we would share your comment with the appropriate agency, for example, I am familiar with this intersection personally and know that it is the jurisdiction of the WCRC but also with Webster Township.
- We will share all comments collected with members of our Technical and Policy Committee members. Our Policy Committee are the governing board for our agency and they would make final decisions on where funds will be spent.”
It helps to understand the process. WATS acts as a facilitator, a bridge between public concerns (in my case the terribly busy and terribly marked intersection) and awareness by government officials of those concerns. In short, somebody is listening and that’s an encouraging start. But then Suzann surprised me with the next paragraph.
“As a side note, I follow several facebook groups re: Dexter and saw some concerns pop up the other day regarding this intersection. I shared those comments with WCRC roundabout person Mark McCulloch. He was aware of the issue.”
WATS doesn’t just listen, they have already been listening. She then told me what I/we could do to inaugurate a dialogue with the decision makers.
“As for fixing the issue, the best way to start the conversation is with the local jurisdiction. While they may not maintain the roadways the WCRC sits down with every Township yearly to discuss what challenges they are having and what roadways/intersections, etc need to be fixed or further studied. It should be stated as well that townships that want improvements may be asked to provide funds to support the project.
Since the 5-point intersection lies within Webster Township, I have taken her advice and emailed the Webster Township Supervisor with my concern.
As the Dexter area continues to develop and grow, traffic will only increase. I encourage you to take a few minutes and voice your own transportation concerns.