Long-dubbed ‘Traffic City’ by some locals, traffic in Traverse City is no longer viewed as just a summer problem. Planners say the region’s transportation infrastructure was not built to handle anywhere near today’s capacities, regardless of the season.
While opinions vary about how bad local road traffic truly is, the issue and possible solutions are generating more and more debate among area leaders. Here’s a quick glance at what local officials and transportation advocates are proposing as fixes and why.
Getting Across Town
East-west mobility is Traverse City’s biggest traffic problem, according to Garfield Township Supervisor Chuck Korn, and he maintains a Hartman-Hammond bridge over the Boardman River in Garfield Township is still the best solution – even after first being proposed more than a decade ago – for bypassing Traverse City and easing traffic on congested thoroughfares.
“Look at Google Earth and if you see a better place, let me know,” Korn says of the idea that generated serious controversy and was eventually shelved.
Projected cost? It was estimated at $40-plus million several years ago (for a different, less complex design). Where does that fit within current and future severely-taxed state and federal road budgets? “The finances are a little daunting, but I think there is a way to do it,” adds Korn.
On the flip side, the TC-based Michigan Land Use Institute (MLUI) is opposed to a Hartman-Hammond bridge – or any bridge for that matter – right now, according to James Bruckbauer, the group’s policy specialist focusing on regional transportation.
“We need to fix what we have first … there’s a lot of work with existing systems before we build a new bridge. Building a bridge now would bring more congestion outside of town, bury us much deeper into debt, and do little to ease congestion in TC.”
Getting Around In Town
“Studies are showing that most traffic is going into town, not around town,” says Bruckbauer.
What should/could be done to help? MLUI has three ideas for lower cost, incremental and achievable improvements to make traffic flow more effectively over time:
Upgrade existing busy intersections and roads: specifically S. Airport, Grandview Parkway and Division. How? Timing traffic signals for better flow; reducing the number of curb cuts (i.e. driveways) along S. Airport in favor of service drives for less “stop and go”; more sidewalks and bike lanes. Bruckbauer says work is being done with state leaders on these issues, but there is a need for “more leadership from local officials.”
Decrease the amount of trips taken by car. The organization says 12,000-plus commuters are driving into TC daily. “If another 10 percent commuted by carpooling, bus, bike or walking in Grand Traverse County, that would take thousands of cars off the road,” says Bruckbuaer. MLUI has a goal of 25 percent of the area’s single-car commuters to be smart commuting by 2020. It is currently working with some of the largest employers – NMC, City of TC, Hagerty, Grand Traverse Resort & Casino – on ways to reach that goal, by helping them carpool, find the bus (via BATA’s new fixed-route system) and utilize bike routes.
Upgrade the Keystone/Beitner corridor. The corridor offers a west/east connection between Chum’s Corners and Cass, Hammond and Three Mile, but improvements would have to be made for it to become a viable “bypass” for trucks and other traffic around TC. Cost? TC TALUS (Traverse City Area Transportation and Land Use Study) is investigating, Bruckbauer says.