ANN ARBOR – Work has begun on State Street that will completely transform the downtown thoroughfare.
The project, by the city of Ann Arbor and the Downtown Development Authority, will take two spring/summer construction seasons to complete.
The biggest change? State will become Ann Arbor’s first curbless street.
We’ll see this change by the end of this summer once Phase 1 of the project is complete. From Washington to William, State will feature a curbless design and other changes to the streetscape, including curbed planters at corners, a new corner plaza at State and North U and pedestrian countdown timers.
A shared use pathway along the east side of State connecting the William Street Bikeway to new single-direction split bike lanes on North University will also be added.
State Street improvements have been in the works for several years, said communications manager for the DDA, Maura Thomson, who added that general city projects help determine the timing of redesigns.
“We really try as much as we can to coordinate with city projects to lessen the impact on the neighborhood,” said Thomson. “The city is (currently) doing water main replacement on State Street.”
Thomson said the DDA had already been exploring a curbless design to make accessing the area more flexible for businesses and events.
“During pandemic, the ability to use curbside space in a flexible way was key to our COVID response here in Ann Arbor and around the world,” she said. “It’s something we had already been thinking about and the pandemic reinforced that idea. The curbless street also should make it easier for special events, so for Art Fair it should help with the tent placement and provide more flexibility.”
She said getting rid of curbs will help make the street more accessible for people in wheelchairs. The streetscape was also designed with input from individuals with vision disabilities. The border areas between the sidewalk and street will feature a “detectable edge” that will be perceptible both underfoot and with walking canes.
A valley gutter before entering the travel way will provide a second layer of detection for those with visual impairments and accessible pedestrian signals will be installed at crosswalks.
Along with a new aesthetic and function will come new safety features, including improved bicycle connectivity and an all-walk phase at the intersection of State and North University.
“All traffic is stopped and pedestrians will have the ability to cross in any direction they want,” said Thomson. “The whole raised design and the various elements that you see -- all of that should have a traffic calming effect because if you’re a driver, you’re entering something that’s different. That in and of itself is going to change how people drive through that area.”
The State Street redesign will include the removal of the northbound turn lane on State at the intersection of North University.
Phase 1 of the project should be completed just after Labor Day and Phase 2 will commence in the spring of 2023.