There is no easy solution for public safety vehicles trying to access Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak during the Woodward Dream Cruise, officials say.
Law enforcers and ambulance drivers do their best to avoid Woodward Avenue during the event — which is expected to attract 40,000 classic cars Saturday — and would have to rely on their lights and sirens, along with the common sense of other motorists, to get through should an emergency occur on the historic roadway.
"I do think, generally speaking, there is definitely a blind spot that the hospital is right there," said Laurie Thiel, CEO of Alliance Mobile Health, which provides ambulance service to Berkley, Oak Park, Huntington Woods, Beverly Hills and Troy. "There is not a clear-cut plan that gets put into place. We handle it internally."
Emergency responses in Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Ferndale and Royal Oak are handled by the cities' fire departments as well as various other contract companies, such as Star EMS.
Thiel said Alliance Mobile Health's drivers do their best to stay off Woodward during the Dream Cruise, instead taking back routes along Greenfield and other mile roads, and through subdivisions during non-emergencies.
"If it is an emergency and we're stuck on Woodward, we'll activate our lights and sirens and do our best to move all the way to the left- or the right-hand side and hope people will push to (the opposite direction)," she said. "If we have to do a little curb creep, we will."
In most of the nine communities along the 16-mile Dream Cruise route, spectators are prohibited from the median to allow access for emergency vehicles, if needed. The exception is in Ferndale, where spectators are allowed in the median due to narrow sidewalks, the city's Special Events Director Michael Lary wrote in an e-mail to Patch.
"No tents or other obstructions (are) allowed," Lary wrote. "Only chairs and blankets."
In Berkley, Public Safety Deputy Director Robert North said Coolidge Highway and Greenfield Road serve as alternate routes to the hospital during the cruise.
The department also places "no parking" signs along the fire hydrant side of neighborhood streets between 11 and 12 Mile Roads to provide for emergency vehicle access, according to North.
"Unfortunately, sometimes, people steal the signs, throw them in their trunk and park there," he said.
"It's all about being able to provide response to the community and the event," North said. "We have to have the ability to get in there and get out."
Huntington Woods Public Safety Lt. Bill Cudney said Coolidge Highway also is the best route for residents who need to drive themselves to the hospital Saturday.
"Woodward is going to be a nightmare," he said.
While it might be tricky for for emergency vehicles to get to Beaumont, they will have normal access once they arrive, Beaumont Health System Media Relations & Communications Specialist Angela Blazevski wrote in an e-mail to Patch.
"Even though it's really hectic for the weekend, we will have normal operations," she wrote.
Due to "severe traffic delays" expected Friday and Saturday, Blazevski wrote, the hospital's employees have been encouraged to plan extra commute time and alternate routes, such as the following: "Instead of Woodward Ave., exit I-696 at Greenfield and go north to Thirteen Mile Road. Then head east on Thirteen Mile Road and enter Beaumont using the West staff/receiving entrance."
She added that there also will be road closures near the hospital this week.
"Woodward Avenue will close for a couple of hours at 10 p.m. on Friday and 9 p.m. on Saturday while police clear cruisers from the road," she wrote. "During that time, the Thirteen Mile Road and Woodward intersection will be closed. If employees must cross Woodward, they will need to show their Beaumont badge."
The southbound lanes of Woodward from 13 Mile to Normandy in Royal Oak also will be closed for approximately 30 minutes on Saturday morning during the Cruise in Shoes 5K Walk/Run, according to event co-director Suzi Stock.
While the street will be closed to vehicular traffic at approximately 7:15 a.m.; the northbound Woodward lanes will remain open.
Fortunately, Alliance Mobile Health CEO Thiel said that while the ambulance company has responded to minor incidents during the Dream Cruise in past years, no "newsworthy" emergencies have occurred.
Ferndale Patch Editor Jessica Schrader and Royal Oak Patch Editor Judy Davids contributed to this report.