The purpose of the Pontiac Livability Study was to improve the connectivity between downtown Pontiac, the adjacent neighborhoods, and the broader community by adapting the Woodward Loop transportation network (street, sidewalk, and bike path system). It was envisioned that adapting the network would improve livability and the long term economic health of Pontiac and the surrounding neighborhoods. Oakland County Planning & Economic Development Services, along with the City of Pontiac, was awarded a Sustainable Communities Challenge Grant.

In the middle of the 20th Century, the vision for growth in the region and the need to increase automobile throughput surrounding Pontiac drove the design of the Woodward Loop. However, demographics and economic conditions changed and traffic decreased along this arterial. Today, rather than connecting Pontiac’s neighborhoods and destinations, as a key transportation corridor should, the Loop segregates downtown Pontiac from surrounding communities – hindering economic growth and cutting off downtown from surrounding neighborhoods. The one-way direction of the Loop, which promotes high-speed travel, in conjunction with its confusing or non-existent connections to downtown streets, means that the Loop acts as a barrier to downtown for motorists and pedestrians.

The Sustainable Communities Challenge Program is a partnership between the United States Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that encourages communities to develop plans addressing the Six Livability Principles.

The project could not address all of Pontiac’s problems, but focused on improving the transportation system by preparing a detailed transportation connectivity plan. There were three stages of community meetings that included: information and input on alternatives, a three day charrette/visioning process, and an explanation and output of alternative results. The recommendations addressed complete streets, cycle tracks, gateways, and approached change on a variety of levels addressing Tactical Urbanism, as well as traditional methods of transportation planning change. The final report addresses the need for MDOT to address the limited access issues with the Federal Highway Administration, as well as costs, a phased approach, implementation strategies, and next steps to move the plan forward to enhance the livability and viability of downtown Pontiac.