Closure of Columbine Avenue overlooked in DDA plans

President asks administration for better communication in the future

BURTON The recent closure of Columbine Avenue at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Saginaw Street wasn’t noticed by much of city council when plans were approved months earlier.

When the matter was brought up at the May 3 council meeting, Charles Abbey, director of the Department of Public Works, said the closing of Columbine Avenue at the intersection of Saginaw and Maple has always been part of the plan.

But at the May 17 meeting, all but one council member said they did not recall it being part of the project, sparking a request from Council President Steve Heffner for better communication in future proposals.

“I know we approved curbs when we approved the street,” said Heffner. “I didn’t know we approved curb changes. That should have come to the council a long time ago.”

Abbey said it did and it was included in the plans, which were sent to the council by the Downtown Development Authority for approval.

Vice President Greg Fenner, who sits on the DDA board, said he recalls the closure being part of the plan – but the rest of the council said they do not recall that feature of the project.

“To change the flow of a street requires council action?” Heffner asked Attorney Amanda Doyle, who confirmed it was required. “No one knew they were going to close off the end of that street.”

He said the administration should have highlighted “big changes” like that, adding he recalled the past administration discussing a possible closure of Columbine Avenue, with a promise that a town hall meeting to discuss it with residents would be held before a decision was made.

Fenner said the closure was recommended by the engineering firm who designed the project, adding it was a safety issue because it prevents a right turn on red on Maple Avenue and protects cars pulling out of driveways near corner on Columbine.

Abbey said there have been 21 accidents at the location in five years and he said he has only heard positive feedback from residents who have been concerned about safety.

“Everyone we’ve talked to in several conversations, including a former mayor who lives there, that people come flying through there, there are young kids sneaking through there and it’s a recipe for disaster,” said Abbey. “It’s time for a change.”

The closure was also something the Michigan Department of Transportation wanted because the repaving of Saginaw Street was done with an 80-20 percent match with state grant money.

Heffner said in the future the administration needed to let the council know where there are major changes being made to roadways so it can make an informed decision.

With the closure already complete, Heffner said there was little that could be done about it now but added the council will look at where the funding for that aspect of the project should come from at a future meeting.