Traverse City News and Events

City Talks Upcoming Projects, Capital Improvement Plan

By Beth Milligan | April 12, 2022

The resurfacing and redesign of part of Garfield Avenue starting next week is just one of numerous city projects on deck this and next year, with city commissioners discussing the city’s capital improvement plan (CIP) Monday ahead of a May budgeting process.

Crews will start working on Garfield Avenue between Hannah Avenue and East Front Street on Monday, April 18. In addition to road resurfacing in that stretch, the project – which has long been in the city’s CIP – calls for narrowing lane widths and reducing lanes from four to three on Garfield between Eighth and Hannah. New bike lanes will also be added that connect to the existing bike lanes north of Eighth and to the Tart Trail at Garfield and Hannah. City Manager Marty Colburn said the city is working with the Michigan Department of Transportation to eventually extend improvements north up Garfield to the city limits on Old Mission, but those upgrades are not part of this project.

According to a city release, driveway flares will be removed in two locations on Garfield and sidewalk ramps will be brought into ADA compliance at the Boyd, Eighth Street, Walnut Street, Titus Street, Webster Street, and State Street intersections. The Lincoln Street and Washington Street intersections were upgraded in 2021, along with additional pedestrian improvements such as a pedestrian refuge island near the Civic Center crossing, as part of Safe Routes to Schools and the city’s sidewalk gap and infill project.

“The resurfacing of Garfield Avenue will also include amenities such as bike lane pavement markings, meeting the requirements of ADA compliance on our sidewalk ramps, and enhanced crossing signals near the TART Trail which will improve the corridor for non-motorized traffic,” according to City Engineer Tim Lodge. Former City Engineering Technician Jessica Carpenter told planning commissioners last year that the project will change the nature of the corridor, an effort to calm traffic and make it “feel less like a highway.” She noted that the resurfacing project is long overdue. “Anyone who drives on Garfield Avenue probably knows it’s barely holding itself together,” she said. “Another thing we were looking at is the speeds, and we’re hoping that narrowing the lane widths as well as the number of lanes and encouraging non-motorized traffic along the corridor will help reduce speeds.”

The project is expected to be complete by May 10, depending on weather. Garfield Avenue will be closed between East Front Street and Hannah Avenue while work is underway, with a vehicle detour route in place using Fair Street, Eighth Street, Hastings Street, Carver Street, and Woodmere Avenue around the work zone (pictured). East-west thru traffic will be allowed at the Eighth Street intersection, with lane closures in place, but will be prohibited at the Hannah Avenue intersection. A pedestrian detour connecting to the TART Trail will be in place near the Hannah Avenue intersection. Businesses in the affected areas will remain open, according to a city press release.

A long list of projects is included in the city’s CIP for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which officially begins in July. City Manager Marty Colburn reminded commissioners Monday that the CIP is just a plan, not a commitment to complete all listed projects in a given year, and that “until we get to the budget, not necessarily everything is funded.” City commissioners will go through a budget review with staff in May ahead of a June deadline to adopt next year’s budget. However, several projects on the list are already certain to move ahead, including the reconstruction of the North Cass Street and South Union Street bridges starting this summer. Numerous drinking water and wastewater repairs are also on deck, with the city approved to receive state funding to begin tackling some of those this upcoming year, including the replacement of the Boardman River retaining wall downtown.

Several Traverse City Light & Power (TCLP) and Downtown Development Authority (DDA) projects are also on the list for 2022-23. City commissioners voted last week to approve bonding up to $18.2 million for a buildout of TCLP’s fiber network citywide and upgrading to a smart grid. Transmission line reconstruction near Parsons Road, more electric vehicle charging station upgrades, substation improvements on Keystone Road, and underground line work are also on deck. TCLP is also looking ahead to future years: Utility board members will vote today (Tuesday) on seeking construction quotes for an estimated $2.3 million project to replace aging and undersized transformers at the Cass and Parsons substations. Those upgrades, which are expected to help TCLP avoid transformer overload and handle future growth, are targeted to be completed by June 2024.

Projects like volleyball court upgrades, the replacement of West End Beach bathrooms, alley work between State and Front Street, Rivers Edge riverwalk deck replacement, and repairs to the Harbormaster Building at Clinch Park are all listed for 2022-23 in the downtown area. However, a variety of funding sources are likely to pay for those projects if they proceed, such as parks funding, marina funding, state and other outside grants, and – for certain projects, such as the riverwalk – DDA TIF funds. DDA CEO Jean Derenzy told commissioners Monday that TIF funding can also be used for housing projects downtown, something that is listed several years out in the CIP but could be bumped up if a viable public-private partnership development comes forward. For example, Colburn said that HomeStretch – which had reconsidered its plans to partner with the city to develop housing in Lot O next to The Omelette Shoppe after a recent court ruling changed the way building height is measured in the city – has come up with a redesign that could allow the project to proceed. Colburn said he could be returning to city commissioners soon with a letter of intent from HomeStretch for review.

Other 2022-23 projects are expected to come into clearer focus once city commissioners approve this year’s budget. Staff said they are also working to make the CIP more user-friendly to the public. City Planning Director Shawn Winter demonstrated an interactive map to commissioners Monday, which is still in draft form, that could eventually allow residents to click on different projects to learn more details, including a project description, anticipated timeline, and cost estimate. In the meantime, information on the city’s CIP is available in PDF form on the city’s website.

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