Roundabout at dangerous intersection delayed; land owner refuses to sell property

Published 9:45 am Wednesday, June 8, 2022

MILTON TWP. — Residents looking forward to a dangerous intersection becoming safer will have to wait another year for the project to begin. 

The roundabout scheduled to be constructed this summer at the eastern intersection of Redfield Street and Gumwood Road has been delayed until 2023 due to right-of-way acquisition issues with a local land owner, according to county officials.

Cass County Commissioner Roseann Marchetti attended the latest Niles Area Transportation Study meeting, and updated the county board of the delay at their June 2 meeting. Cass County Road Commission Managing Director Robert Thompson added to Marchetti’s comments during his report to the commissioners.

“As you know, Roseann, we will never give up on that – it’s going to happen,” said Thompson, of the project. “Unfortunately, we needed to acquire three relatively small pieces of property from three property owners. Interestingly enough, the person that had the most property that we needed gave it to us. The other person, that had the second [most land], we ended up paying him more than I thought we should have. … The third person will not sign in any way, shape or form.”

According to Thompson, the county must use the condemnation process, which allows the government to acquire private property for public use, to secure the land needed for the roundabout. The property in question is about 1,500 square feet, according to Thompson.

“I can tell you that if we have to go through condemnation … we are not just going to go for the 1,500 square feet,” Thompson said. “We are going to go for what we need for phase two, because it’s the same property owner, and I don’t want to do this twice.”

In 2020, the road commission was granted a Safety Grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation to cover $581,672 of the construction costs. Thompson said the good news is that the county has another year to use the grant money for phase one of the project. 

“It’s unfortunate, but it happens,” Thompson said. “The person we’re dealing with is an elderly gentleman, and I respect him and his position. But he is a former township supervisor that promoted this initially years ago, so I do not understand.”

The intersection of Redfield Street and Gumwood Road is often traveled by Indiana and Michigan residents alike, and those traveling northbound on Gumwood often face traffic delays due to the 45-degree angle the road approaches Redfield Street. According to a 2017 Niles-Buchanan-Cass Area Transportation Study by the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, Gumwood Road averages over 7,500 vehicles per day between the Indiana state line and Redfield Street.

The intersection has a history of collisions, the most recent being May 31 when a motorcycle traveling east on Redfield attempted to pass a vehicle turning south on Gumwood and struck a vehicle attempting to turn west onto Redfield. The motorcyclist was transported to the hospital for injuries.