As you’re aware, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is proposing a safety improvement for M-55 in West Branch called a lane conversion, also known as a road diet. The lane conversion involves converting the existing four-lane roadway segment that serves both through and turning traffic into a three-lane segment with two through lanes and a center, two-way left-turn lane.

The primary driver behind the lane conversion is safety.  During the 2015-2019 time period (5 years), M-55 from M-30 to Fairview Street experienced 134 recorded traffic crashes, including two crashes that resulted in severe injuries. Three lane sections are proven to significantly reduce crashes by simplifying the driving experience, reducing conflict points and calming traffic.  Three lane sections are also more conducive to non-motorized users such as pedestrians and bicyclists…especially when those users are attempting to cross the road.  Click HERE to see the the MDOT document that lists many more benefits that lane conversions (or road diets) can achieve on urban corridors.

MDOT has conducted an in-depth analysis of operations on M-55 in West Branch under both the existing and proposed conditions (and with future traffic volume projections).  Even at peak travel times, the vehicle capacity that will be provided by the 3-lane section is sufficient to handle the traffic volumes.  In fact, changes to travel times and vehicle delay are predicted to be negligible.  Yes, traffic will back up a little further on red lights with only one lane to handle the vehicle storage instead of two.  However, that increase in delay is countered by the fact that left-turning vehicles will no longer delay vehicles behind them that are intended to travel straight through. 

The lane conversion will not impact on-street parking availability and additional on-street parking is not being proposed.  The parking style will continue to be parallel, as traditional angle parking is prohibited on state highways.  Vehicle speeds are expected to become more uniform as a result of the lane conversion as well.

The intersections of M-55 and Valley Street and M-55 at M-30 were both recently studied to see if they met the federal requirements to warrant a traffic signal. The studies revealed that neither intersection meets warrants for a new traffic signal based on current and traffic volumes and patterns.  MDOT will monitor both intersections after the project in case conditions change.

MDOT has moved this project from a 2023 construction time table to 2024.