Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, October 14, 2010

University invites neighbor input on plan for vehicle-free zone near stadium

Several dozen Michigan Stadium neighbors shared concerns and suggestions with U-M staff Wednesday night in response to an initial plan to create a vehicle-free zone around the stadium during major events.

Most concerns focused on perceived challenges the neighborhood would face by closing Main Street to all vehicle traffic between W. Stadium and Pauline boulevards before, during and after major events.

The comments were shared at a meeting hosted by the Athletics Department and other university units for the residents and landowners in the neighborhood west of the stadium. Jim Kosteva, director of community relations, informed the group that university and city staff would study input provided at the meeting to help strengthen a proposal that would be presented later to city staff and ultimately be submitted to the Ann Arbor City Council for its approval.

Al Shenouda, the terrorism lead from the Detroit office of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told the crowd of more than 110 people that 55 terrorism plots have failed or have been foiled on U.S. soil in the past 18 months.

Shenouda, University Planner Sue Gott and Department of Public Safety Executive Director Ken Magee each told the group that this is a different day and age from 20 or 30 years ago when children, including Magee, often snuck under the fence to watch the Wolverines play football. More security measures need to be in place in order to keep stadium patrons and the neighborhood safe, they said.

The vehicle-free zone around the stadium is one suggestion Shenouda and his DHS colleagues provided the university after they conducted a vulnerability assessment last spring.

“When U-M instituted the bag prohibition last year, you greatly reduced the threat of bombs being brought into the stadium in backpacks. Now we are trying to reduce the threat of vehicle-borne bombs or attacks,” Shenouda said. “Together with the bag prohibition, by implementing a vehicle-free zone around the stadium, this will be the safest stadium in the country.”

Many neighbors voiced concerns about moving traffic out of the neighborhood after a game. Some wanted to know about the proposed communications plans to inform stadium patrons and other visitors. Others wanted to know how quickly fire or ambulance responders could access their properties in case an emergency occurs. And still others thanked the university for seeking community feedback and for exploring such a plan.

The initial operations plan calls for accommodations for the five properties that only have access along Main Street. Though the plan is similar to one that was implemented for the 2010 Spring Commencement featuring President Barack Obama, no implementation date was provided.

But one thing many people — neighbors and staff alike — could agree on was that the traffic delays experienced prior to and after the Michigan State game Oct. 9 were unprecedented.

“I’ve been here since 1950 and last week was the worst traffic I’ve ever seen,” said one resident.