Northwestern Connector Triangle & Orchard Lake Boulevard
Road Commission for Oakland County
Farmington Hills, MI
Complex Road Reconfiguration Relieves Gridlock, Improves Safety for Detroit-Area Travelers
Led by Michigan’s Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC), the overarching Northwestern Connector project (NWC) was a $50M+ project initiated in 2003. Its goal was to rectify an onerous traffic congestion and safety situation resulting from decades of population growth and development northwest of Detroit into the suburbs of West Bloomfield and Farmington Hills.
The original, early-1950s plan was to connect Northwestern Highway (M-10) from Detroit to Interstate 275, but environmental concerns prevented this connection. Instead, M-10 ended at the “Triangle” area formed by itself, Orchard Lake Road and 14 Mile Road. Over the next 50+ years of population and business growth, traffic through the Triangle area rose to nearly 100,000 vehicles per day and a significant regional bottleneck developed.
Since 2003, OHM Advisors has been the primary design consultant for the overarching, phased NWC project on behalf of the RCOC and its partners: MDOT, the City of Farmington Hills, and West Bloomfield Township. Several peripheral portions of the NWC project were constructed in the mid to late 2000s, including three roundabouts and improvements to several east-west and north-south “connector” roads to help facilitate regional traffic flow from M-10 to MDOT’s planned extension of M-5, just north of the I-275 terminus. However, the most intensive Triangle portion stalled for several years due to costs. Our multidisciplinary team then spearheaded a multi-consultant study to “right-size” the project in the Triangle area while still providing congestion relief, safety improvements and a vibrant, walkable corridor that connects residents, workers, and businesses and is well-positioned for future enhancements and economic viability.
The OHM Advisors team used multiple traffic modeling software platforms to derive a solution that accommodated three closely spaced, high-volume intersections. The design team meticulously balanced rights-of-way, utilities, and tight site constraints around the three intersections to keep traffic moving, business access open, and crews working safely and efficiently during construction. The multiple-award-winning Triangle project included a high-volume, multi-lane roundabout at 14 Mile Road and Orchard Lake Road, plus the reconfiguration of 1.3 miles of roadway. Despite its complexity, the project opened to traffic within three weeks of its completion date in 2015.
Just north of the Triangle, the companion Orchard Lake Boulevard project included design and reconstruction of the existing 5-lane road to a 4-lane boulevard, and the realignment of an intersecting road that “tees” into Orchard Lake at the economic center of West Bloomfield Township. Once again, our team overcame the challenges of tight space and utility constraints while managing business access and multi-phase construction staging, avoiding environmental impacts, and planning for future streetscape enhancements.
With these two key NWC project phases complete, decades-long congestion has been significantly reduced, and traffic flows safely on a reimagined thoroughfare through a vital community crossroads. OHM Advisors is proud of the outcome and the collaborative effort with the RCOC and its project partners on this challenging, once-in-a generation regional project.