2017-03-12 / Insight

Collaborative effort drove installation of traffic signal

BY JEFF HOGAN
810-452-2640 •


A traffic signal at M-53 and Burnside Road was installed in December following years of pressure by area residents and officials to improve safety at the intersection. A traffic signal at M-53 and Burnside Road was installed in December following years of pressure by area residents and officials to improve safety at the intersection. BURNSIDE TWP. — A new traffic signal at the intersection of M-53 and Burnside Road has been operational since late December, bringing relief to motorists and officials alike who rallied to improve safety at the site that had been prone to serious injury accidents.

The new signal in Burnside Township resulted from a collaborative grass-roots effort that included pressure exuded by area residents, municipal and school officials and frequent reporting by The County Press and The Brown City Banner, a sister publication to The Press. The community initiative and persistence made enough noise to get the atten- tion of state highway safety engineers at the Michigan Dept. of Transportation who finally agreed to put up a traffic light.

Tired of hearing screeching tires and the horrible thud of a collision out her window at the Burnside Township hall just east of the intersection, clerk Bonnie Koning spearheaded a campaign that began nearly three years ago to get a traffic light installed.

“I was very surprised to be honest,” said Koning at the news that the light had been approved. “I had been told the intersection wasn’t going to get a light. It’s great news. Our residents are thrilled. The paper was instrumental in helping us get this done.”

She continued, “The articles in the paper drew attention to how dangerous the intersection was. You helped galvanize opinion and it helped local officials to work together and encourage MDOT to consider a traffic signal.”

Prior to installation of the standard three-color signal, the intersection had been served by a blinking warning light strung between wires over the roadway. North-south traffic traveling at a posted speed limit of 55 mph had the right of way and was alerted of the intersection by a blinking yellow light, while east-west commuters on Burnside Road got a blinking red light.

Looking for help, Koning reached out to Lapeer County officials, including the county commission, road commission, neighboring township supervisors as well as state Rep. Gary Howell. They offered letters of support and made phone calls to MDOT in an effort to get their attention.

Lending their voices and interest to get a signal at M-53 and Burnside (M-90) the City of Brown City, Brown City Community Schools and the Brown City Area Fire Dept. also sent letters of support. The fire department serves Burnside Township and has responded to numerous serious accidents, including fatalities, at the intersection.

Brown City Superintendent Doug Muxlow commented, “Anytime we can make our travel area safer, it is a good thing. Not only for our buses which travel M-90 (Burnside Road) and Van Dyke twice a day, but also for our students that travel those roads as well.”

The County Press and Banner newspapers wrote editorials in support of a traffic signal and encouraged residents to remain vigilant to speak with their local government units to ensure the signal was a top priority of theirs.

When it appeared the signal’s installation last fall may have become mired in state bureaucracy, Koning kept calling MDOT and DTE officials to keep them on task to deliver the signal as promised. It was discovered there was a scheduling conflict between MDOT and DTE as to which agency was responsible to order and install the supporting poles on which the new signal would hang.

MDOT agreed to fast-track the project and installed the poles and had the signal working by the close of December.

“It was a beautiful thing to see how people can work together to make something happen,” said Koning. “It took you (the newspaper) too to go above and beyond to get the information out there to help bring change and move things along … We just had to stay focused and remember why we were doing what we did, because it was for everyone.”

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