Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Residents, officials discuss U-M request to close South Main Street

A university request to temporarily close South Main Street between Pauline and Stadium boulevards before and during the seven home football games of the 2013 season could go before the Ann Arbor City Council at its Aug. 5 meeting.

A community meeting July 24 drew nearly 40 people, many of whom live near Michigan Stadium and voiced their opposition. The U-M Police Department wants the city to close Main Street for three hours before and until the end of games on Aug. 31, Sept. 7 and 14, Oct. 5 and 19, and Nov. 9 and 30.

Ann Arbor Police Chief John Seto presided over the meeting at the downtown Ann Arbor District Library and outlined the reasons that his department supports the proposal, which he said balances public safety concerns with the potential inconveniences voiced by neighbors.

Seto and U-M Police Chief Joseph Piersante said the primary benefits are increased pedestrian safety, particularly around the Main Street-Stadium Boulevard intersection, and the creation of a 100-foot vehicle-free zone on the stadium's west side. The latter precaution was recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to reduce the opportunity for a vehicle-borne explosive device.

Those speaking against the measure said they did not think they were given adequate time for input, that it would further congest side-street traffic, and that it could negatively affect those who charge for parking along streets off Main, which would be barricaded as part of the closure.

Ward 4 Councilperson Marcia Higgins said the request came to the city July 15 and that the July 24 meeting was an effort to gather public input before the next council meeting, scheduled for Aug. 5. Margie Teall, the other Ward 4 councilperson who represents the area around the stadium, also was at the meeting.

"This was a way to get as many people together as possible," Higgins said. "It's been very quick, but we wanted to get as many people as possible."

Regarding the impact on residential parking, Seto suggested signs could specify that side streets would be blocked to through traffic, but not to those who live there or park there during games. He also said one lane would be open to allow access to parking areas along the affected segment of Main.

As for traffic congestion, Seto said he observed few problems when a similar Main Street closure was implemented for U-M's first night football game, against Notre Dame in 2011, and that Main would be open as soon as games end — perhaps sooner if the crowd starts departing early.

He also said six additional officers would be assigned to assist traffic in the detour areas, and that his department and U-M police would closely monitor the situation during the first three games of 2013 — games with noon, 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. kickoff times — to determine if alterations are needed.

One person suggested closing the northbound lane three hours before the game but leaving the southbound lane open until closer to kickoff. Another speaker suggested a shorter closure time for noon games or those that are not marquee contests. Seto said he would review the feasibility of those suggestions.

Some said closing Main Street simply was not necessary. George Feldman, who lives on Keech Street along the stadium's north side, acknowledged that increased pedestrian safety is a positive aspect of the proposal, but that the security concerns aren't realistic.

"The status quo has been pretty good," Feldman said, adding that closing Main would make for "a better experience for their stadium and a worse experience for all of us."