Op-Ed: Epic Communication Fail – Tienken Road Construction Project

By Linda Davis-Kirksey, Rochester Hills

As a 30-year resident of Rochester Hills, Michigan I have never felt such frustration that has been echoed overwhelmingly by my fellow RH residents as to the epic mishandling of advance notice and communication of Tienken Road construction Project. For over 19 years I have worked with municipal projects. In fact I was one of the people that assisted the previous City administration in securing Federal Highway Funding to do the Tienken Road Project. Imagine to my dismay, as I was leaving for a business meeting that I saw my Fairview Farms subdivision entrances being sealed off and closed using pipes that caused a permanent barrier to any access in and out of the Fairview Farms subdivision. Thank goodness from years of campaigning that I knew how to make my way home.

Communication is the key to any major road project. The current City administration, which prides itself on communication skills, this was another failure. Of primary concern was the health and safety accessibility. Fairview Farms residents complained to the Oakland County Road Commission and to the Mayor’s Office and were either not responded to or each organization pointed the finger to the other.

I just happened to be at a committee meeting with the Brooksie Way Half Marathon this morning and conveyed my concerns to our committee about communication for race day and the road issues and concerns going on. The Oakland County Road Commission was in attendance as were several engineers from the City of Rochester Hills and a new employee from the Rochester Hills Mayor’s Office. After the meeting I conveyed my absolute disappointment with their failure in advance notification and education as to the road closure events and what that meant to residents. I was directed to the City website which shows a map of areas affected but no way finding for alternative routes, or an updated timeline specific to closures and the updates on the construction Project itself.

The Oakland County Road Commission Rep was puzzled as to why the pipe barriers were in place for the entrance to subdivisions. He commented that usually occurs only when there was a severe grade change. I told him first hand that was not the case. The Mayor’s office new employee said she just personally stuffed a communication letter to residents about the current situation. I mentioned it was a little late for that. I asked why there was not advanced communication by way of message board at major intersections as well as signage leading up to the closures indicating alternative routes. The representative from the City thought they may not have budgeted for that in the contractor’s bid.

All and all government has a responsibility to residents to effectively answer and communicate clearly. Something as simple as way finding signage and message boards would have calmed fears, and not created a sense of frustration. My understanding from the City of Rochester Hills and Oakland County Road Commission that Tienken Road between Rochester Road and Livernois should be open by Labor Day (God Willing and the Clinton River doesn’t rise) and Tienken Road between Adams Road and Brewster sometime before November (again a big question mark).

I would strongly suggest for the City of Rochester Hills and the Oakland County Road Commission in conjunction with Dan’s Excavating (the contractor) to use the City’s Local cable TV, websites and water bills to convey update information on the Tienken Road construction project to keep residents advised, safe and questions answered.

School will be opening in a few weeks, can you imagine the nightmare that is about to befall Fairview Farms subdivision and all other subdivision s affected with one access point for ALL School busses as they pick up and drop off for the elementary, middle and high schools. Traffic will be heavy along North Fairview as pedestrian walkers with their children make their way in the early morning hours to Brewster elementary school. A communication plan is instrumental to avoid problems and ensure safety.

Linda Davis- Kirksey is a Rochester Hills business woman who owns and operates Davis Kirksey Associates, Inc., grant writing, organizational development and training company specializing in municipalities, technology companies, hospitals, colleges, universities and non-profit organizations.

An active community member Linda currently serves on a variety of Board of Directors as North Oakland YMCA, Macomb Children Hands on Museum, Alana’s Foundation, Rochester College School of Nursing Advisory Board of Directors.


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  1. While I agree entirely with your point, I feel the need to add that the Brooksie Way’s lack of communication was epic last year (and so far this year) as well. There were no notifications to residents near Dutton that the road would be closed last year or this year, or for how long. Dutton is the only exit and entrance to my street in Oakland Township. Additionally, Dutton, Tienken, and part of Walton will be closed due to race this year, per maps from their website. How are residents supposed to get around anywhere east/west on September 27th this year? Why don’t they hold the race on the grounds of Oakland University or in a park this year?

  2. Posted on behalf of and with the permission of Donna Learmont, Ph.D.

    I too am a resident of Fairview Farms. In early stages of information the word was always that we would have local access out of the sub. My primary concern is that emergency vehicles do not have egress to the sub without adding an additional 10-15 minutes to their runs. Traditional cones and barriers could provide that, but the drainage pipes prohibit any and all access. Therefore, I consider this negligence that could have easily been avoided. For two days this week the only access was via Dutton and Livernois… both dirt roads that are narrow and poorly graded. It is further frustrating to finally make it out of the sub to see NO road crews actually working. We were told that this project would be completed by August… now we are being told November. And I really can’t understand why Brewster-Adams will be closed for another 3 months when it appears to be paved.

    This should have been done in sections that were much shorter or one lane at a time. I agree that the communication from any of the involved parties has been nil. And further, my letters to all parties have received NO responses. This is a disastrous mismanagement affecting the potential life and property of every resident in this quadrant in several subs. And it is a major hassle for anyone who needs a delivery, service, or is trying to sell a home. Remember this when you vote in the next election.

  3. Marianne Maurer says

    This is even worse then the failure last summer. Blocking entrances when workers are rarely in sight is deplorable. No signage yet the signage from last year rusted on the ground all winter and was never picked up. Each group blames the other but the city should have our back. School start up is going to be a disaster. Wouldn’t it be wise to only close exits when working in that area. Meanwhile I see the Mayor doing commercials on what movies he likes to see at the Emagine!

  4. Evan Running says

    Guys, do we really need to be complaining about this? Life is full of surprises, and an unforeseen road closure is only a minor event. The road commission caused the residents of Fairview Farms and Pine Hill an inconvenience, but we have all proven that we can navigate the problem. The greater majority of the residents know how to get in and out of the subdivisions through Brewster or Dutton Roads. Besides, we are all well-off residents who almost never leave our homes without a smartphone; we have the means to figure it out. Sure, they deviated from the standard procedures, but we should simply be grateful that our underfunded road commission is taking interest in repairing and improving Tienken Road.

  5. Evan – “Life is full of surprises” Yes, it certainly is. Like – your spouse has a heart attack or your neighbor’s house is on fire – threatening to ignite yours if help doesn’t arrive ASAP
    But EMT’s and the Fire Dept are “surprised” by both sub entrances being closed, their GPS doesn’t take into account daily/weekly road closures – thus delaying response time. Would you consider this a “minor” event then?
    Sorry, simply “being grateful” that the we received some much delayed funds for much delayed projects is not acceptable.
    We, the taxpayers, have paid into those roads funds – services owed to us – and we live in a city that constantly brags how “communicative’ they are with residents.
    They blew it big time.
    Citizens acceptance of unacceptable job performances from government workers (on every level), only encourages further poor performance, not to mention waste, fraud and abuse.

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