Traverse City News and Events

City Approves Safe Routes To Schools Construction, Formation Of Transportation Committee

By Beth Milligan | May 5, 2020

Traverse City commissioners Monday approved a contract with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to make upgrades to 4.52 miles of sidewalk and bike lanes around 10 area schools starting this summer.

Traverse City is eligible for roughly $2 million in improvements through MDOT to make it easier for students to walk and bike to school as part of the Safe Routes to School program. The funds will be used to upgrade and/or expand sidewalks, trails, and bike lanes around 10 local K-8 schools, as well as make traffic calming, crosswalk, and signal improvements. A total of 4.52 miles of improved networks will be installed around Willow Hill Elementary, Central Grade School, Eastern Elementary School, Traverse Heights Elementary, Montessori School at Glenn Loomis, Holy Angels Preschool and Elementary, Immaculate Conception Elementary School, Trinity Lutheran School, and TBAISD’s New Campus School and Oak Park Campus.

City staff used a “heat index” to gauge where students were living in proximity to schools and the most likely routes they’d take to walk or bike there to identify needed improvements. Norte assisted in conducting “walking audits” where students, parents, and faculty would fan out from schools and identify safety threats or traffic challenges. All of that data helped staff “come up with a whole bunch of different projects and select the ones that would provide the most access and bang for the buck,” Norte Executive Director Ty Schmidt previously told The Ticker. According to City Engineer Tim Lodge, MDOT is putting the project out to bid this month and plans to start construction in June, assuming bids come in within budget. Work is anticipated to be complete by August 2021.

City commissioners Monday also voted to form an advisory committee to study active transportation issues citywide. The Active Transportation Advisory Committee (ATAC) will make recommendations to the city manager every budget season and will work year-round to “enable and optimize use of current infrastructure and provide for more, better, and safer active transportation options,” according to the plan. The ATAC will also review preliminary street projects and designs to ensure they’re consistent with the city’s master plan and street design manual.

Members of the city commission, MDOT, Downtown Development Authority, Bay Area Transportation Authority, Norte, Disability Network, TART Trails, Traverse City Light & Power, Traverse Transportation Coordinating Initiative (TTCI) , and Groundwork Center’s Mobility Lab will be invited to serve on the ATAC. Initial metrics of success under the plan include completing the Boardman Lake Trail loop, increasing BATA ridership, collecting data on walking and biking to make more informed decisions, and increasing the amount of pedestrian-scale lighting, in addition to future goals to be determined by the committee.

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