Traverse City News and Events

Boardman Lake Trail Lands $900k, Gets Closer To Completing Loop

By Craig Manning | Jan. 31, 2020

The Brownfield Redevelopment Authority voted unanimously on Thursday to reallocate $900,000 of funding – initially earmarked for a now-defunct road project – to the Boardman Lake Loop Trail. The funds will help close an estimated $1.1 million funding gap that partners on the project have been working to bridge.

A Brownfield Plan for the redevelopment of the areas around Boardman Lake has existed in some form since 2000. Initially intended “to provide for the private redevelopment of the Boardman Banks project,” the plan was amended in the spring of 2001 to include public infrastructure. In 2010, another amendment added both the Boardman Lake Trail and the Boardman Lake Avenue to the plan. The latter project would have led to the construction of a new roadway corridor along Boardman Lake, from 14th Street to Eighth Street.

The Boardman Lake Avenue project died in 2017, but there was still nearly $1.1 million set aside for the construction of a two-lane boulevard. Prior to Thursday’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority meeting, the City of Traverse City had requested that $900,000 of road construction money be reallocated to the Boardman Lake Trail project – $100,000 for design/engineering and $800,000 for trail development. The remaining money will stay in the road construction fund for improvements to existing infrastructure.

After a brief conversation on the matter, members of the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority all voted in favor of the reallocation.

The goal of the Boardman Lake Loop Trail project is to close the existing gap in the trail. That gap spans most of the western side of Boardman Lake, from Medalie Park on the southern end to 14th Street on the northern end. Last summer, the city put out bid requests for the first phase of the project: a one-mile trail stretch from 14th Street to the Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) University Center on Cass Road. The city’s estimate for that part of the trail was around $1.6 million; the lowest bid came in at $2.5 million.

At a January 13 Traverse City Commission Study Session, Assistant City Manager Penny Hill said that the city’s engineering department had been hard at work amending the bid package for resubmittal. Changes included the removal of overlooks, stairs, water access points, and other “optional” trail improvements that could be inserted back into the design if the budget allows. Other adjustments included the removal of a retaining wall structure to reduce excavation costs; and more relaxed project deadlines to give contractors more time and flexibility to carry out the project.

At the January 13 meeting, Hill also revealed that the total cost estimate for the completion of the Boardman Lake Loop Trail is now $7.5 million – up $2 million from where city estimates were last year. Much of that funding is already in place, thanks to not only the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, but also to other project partners like the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), TART Trails, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, and Garfield Township.

The trail project is currently split up into three separate pieces, each of which follows a different funding formula. The stretch of trail from 14th Street to the University Center is jointly funded by Brownfield and MDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). The section between the University Center and Medalie Park will be paid for by Brownfield, TART, the Trust Fund, and the MDNR’s Land and Water Conservation Fund. A third piece – a “spur” that will jut off the main trail near the University Center and run along Cass Road to South Airport – will be paid for in part by MDOT and TART.

Julie Clark, executive director for TART, says her organization is committed to raising money to help close the remaining funding gap – now about $200,000. Most of that gap concerns the “spur,” which Clark explains is not covered by Brownfield dollars and falls wholly within Garfield Township. As such, TART is approaching Garfield Township to contribute an additional $200,000.

Clark tells The Ticker that TART will also look for other fundraising opportunities on its own, in case bids for the project end up exceeding city estimates. “The funding gap is an estimated gap,” she says. “We won't have final numbers until bids are opened in April, and that's when we'll have a full understanding of project costs.” Clark adds that TART has so far contributed $500,000 to the project, “through the generosity of private donors and foundations.”

Bids for the first phase of the project (14th Street to the University Center) are now out, with a bid letting date tentatively set for April 3. Barring any further delays, work could begin as early as June 1.

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