Access and egress to and from the Kroger Plaza can be challenging for motorists, particularly those attempting to make left turns onto southbound M-53. A boulevard would require right turns only.

Proposed 2026 project aims to help minimize crashes in area

IMLAY CITY — Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) officials are recommending a boulevard be constructed on M-53 between Newark Rd. and Borland Rd. to minimize the frequency of traffic accidents in the area.

City Manager Craig Horton said city commissioners are now reviewing the proposal.

Horton said the proposed 2026 project would involve constructing a boulevard near the Kroger Plaza to prevent vehicles from turning left onto southbound Van Dyke (M-53).

Instead, motorists would be required to turn right (north) on Van Dyke and then circle around the boulevard to travel south.

The number of traffic accidents on M-53 (Van Dyke) between Newark Rd. and Capac Rd. (M-21) has long been a concern for Imlay City officials and police.

Of particular concern is the section of highway near the Kroger Plaza, where numerous crashes continue to occur.

Police Chief Scott Pike noted that city officials have lobbied MDOT for years, seeking the installation of a traffic signal in the area.

Despite past and ongoing efforts, Pike said MDOT officials continue to maintain that traffic studies show insufficient traffic flow to warrant the installation of a signal.

Nor has the number of personal injury and fatal crashes that have taken place in the area.

“It’s frustrating to me and for our officers,” Pike said. “We’ve been fighting with MDOT to get a light on Cedar Street (M-53) since I’ve been here.

“I think the delay is because they (MDOT) tend to look at the injury and fatality numbers.”

While it’s still years away, Pike sees a boulevard as helping minimize fender-benders and more serious accidents in the area.

“It might be an inconvenience for motorists,” said Pike, “but it would help a lot.

“This road was never engineered to accommodate the current amount of traffic,” he continued. “What is needed here is something like what exists on Hall Road, where motorists are able to make ‘Michigan lefts.’”

He said Michigan State Police have been working hard to be assistive to Imlay City Police. “The reality is that enforcement efforts do not seem to have a lasting impact,” Pike said. “One thing that has worked well so far is the ‘road diet’ project at the intersection of Third and Cedar streets.”

The so-called road diet reduced one northbound lane at the viaduct and created a designated left-turn lane at Third Street into the city’s downtown district.

Pike pointed to past and recent crash studies as evidence of the need for a traffic signal.

A 2010 report compiled by Michigan State Police ranked the intersection of Newark Rd. and M-53 as No. 3 on a list of most frequent accident locations in Lapeer County.

Other intersections ranked high on the MSP’s Lapeer County list were Cedar St. and Borland Rd.; E. Capac Rd. and Cedar St.; and Cedar St. and Morrice Blvd.

So far this year, Imlay City police have responded to a total of 51 vehicle crashes; about 70% of which took place on Van Dyke.

That number is down from 2019 statistics when officers responded to 75 crashes at the same point, of which 60% took place on Van Dyke.

Pike attributed the drop to the impact of COVID-19, which resulted in significantly fewer motorists traveling to and from work during the government shutdown.

Caution light

While there may be no immediate panacea for reducing the number of crashes along M-53, Pike noted one exception.

He said MDOT is soon expected to install a flashing yellow light at the corner of M-53 and E. Borland Rd.

The flashing signal is designed to alert passing motorists of Imlay City fire trucks entering the highway from the new fire hall, just east of Van Dyke.

Pike said the flashing signal was supposed to be installed before the new fire hall was completed, but was later postponed until 2021.

“Now it appears that flashing yellow signal will be going up in December,” said Pike, who credited Imlay City DPW Supt. Ed Priehs with aiding the cause.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.