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Downtown Pontiac Transportation Assessment


Woodward Avenue rendering

Pontiac, Michigan, the town for which General Motors named its famous line of cars and trucks, is an economically distressed city whose population has declined by more than 20 percent since 1970, and has an above-average unemployment rate. Seeking solutions to improve livability in the downtown, Oakland County was awarded a Sustainable Communities Challenge Grant in October 2010. Early on, stakeholders identified the Woodward Loop Road as a critical barrier to the success of downtown. This one-way state road, as wide as six lanes in some locations, encircles the downtown, cutting it off from surrounding residents and encouraging visitors to bypass it entirely.

Oakland County hired us to determine how to improve the connectivity between downtown Pontiac, the adjacent neighborhoods, and the broader community through transformation of the Woodward Loop road. A total of 11 Woodward alternatives were initially identified based on stakeholder and public input. Thorough analysis of alternatives and continued stakeholder input, including a three-day community design charrette, were used to select a preferred alternative.

For the preferred alternative, specific urban design and engineering recommendations were prepared for the redesign of each segment of the loop, with emphasis placed on interventions that used the existing pavement or could be phased in over time. The recommendations were refined based on discussions with Michigan DOT. The process yielded an implementable as well as visionary plan for reinventing the Loop road.