Traverse City News and Events

Design, Detours Dominate Grandview Parkway Discussion

By Beth Milligan | Feb. 4, 2022

Two major themes dominated public comment this week when the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) held two virtual meetings on the $19 million complete reconstruction of Grandview Parkway between Garfield Avenue and Division Street next year: detours and design.

MDOT will start construction work in March 2023 on the first segment of the Grandview Parkway project between Garfield Avenue and Front Street. Work will pause for the National Cherry Festival before construction picks up again on the second segment, stretching from Front to Division. The project will not only involve extensive underground utility work and stormwater improvements but the major redesign of several intersections, new pedestrian crossings and turn lanes, and new pavement throughout the corridor, which is currently at the end of its useful life.

Construction will require major detours around the entire downtown area that will have a months-long regional traffic impact. During segment one from March to July, eastbound traffic will be maintained on Grandview Parkway between Front and Garfield, but westbound traffic coming into town will need to take Eighth Street to Railroad Avenue to Front Street, with a temporary traffic signal installed at Washington Street to accommodate the vehicle influx (pictured, map). A commercial detour will be in place for truck drivers to avoid downtown entirely using Division, South Airport, and Three Mile. Meanwhile, all Old Mission Peninsula traffic coming into town will be detoured onto Eastern Avenue and then Milliken Drive, turning left onto Front Street/Munson Avenue to connect south to Eighth Street and then downtown.

During segment two of construction from July to fall, two-way traffic will be maintained on Grandview Parkway between Front and Division, with one lane going in each direction. Because that traffic will be congested and primarily through traffic – vehicles getting from one side of town to the other – signs will be in place encouraging downtown visitors to use Eighth Street and northbound streets like Boardman, Cass, and Union to reach restaurants and stores. Pedestrian crossings will be maintained across Grandview Parkway during the entire project, with cycling routes/detours also in place. Access to all north-side businesses – such as NMC’s Great Lakes Campus, the Traverse City Senior Center, and bayside hotels – will also be maintained, though drivers may need to creatively maneuver to reach them by northbound cross-streets or the eastbound Parkway during segment one.

In response to questions posed at MDOT meetings this week, project representatives said several traffic signals will be temporarily reconfigured to handle the new detour patterns. For example, the lights at Eastern Avenue and College Drive near Milliken Drive will both accommodate the detour traffic from Old Mission, while a permanent left green light will likely be in place at US-31/Munson/Eighth Street to handle the westbound cars coming into town. Some residents asked if MDOT could make the commercial detour permanent, saying it’d be better to route trucks around than through downtown long-term. MDOT said that wasn’t possible since the detour uses county roads, which aren’t under state control. MDOT representatives said they’d be working with NMC and Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) on traffic impacts around the two college campuses, TC Central High School, and Eastern Elementary School, particularly with Milliken Drive serving as an Old Mission detour.

The new design of Grandview Parkway also generated significant discussion at the MDOT meetings. Several intersections will undergo major redesigns: New dedicated left-turn lanes will be in place off Grandview Parkway onto Division, Hall, and Park streets for westbound cars, while the Division Street pedestrian crossing will be relocated from the intersection’s east to west side and Bay Street will become right-in, right-out only. Pedestrian crossings will be in place on both sides of Park Street, instead of just the east side. Grandview and Front will be redesigned into a traditional T-shaped intersection, meaning cars will now come to a complete stop there; the continuous westbound green light near the Delamar will be eliminated, allowing for dedicated pedestrian and cyclist crossings at the intersection. Some meeting attendees asked whether the Delamar entrance could be incorporated into the intersection to eliminate traffic backups at the hotel driveway; MDOT reps said they explored the idea, but that the grading was too steep near the intersection to accommodate the design.

Perhaps the most discussion centered on the intersection of Grandview Parkway and Peninsula Drive. Laura Aylsworth-Bonzelet of project firm AECOM noted the intersection has “the highest location of accidents in this corridor,” with 95 crashes occurring over five years. The acute angle of the intersection, the unusually long pedestrian crossing, and the large number of cars turning at high speeds from Front onto Peninsula or vice versa make it a volatile stretch, representatives agreed. MDOT discussed three design options: one that would offer a dedicated left turn from Grandview Parkway onto Peninsula Drive with a median and pedestrian crossing in place across the Parkway by Blue Goat; one similar to today’s design that would accommodate both through traffic and left turns from Front onto Peninsula, but with a softer angle to slow turning cars; and a city-proposed design to limit Peninsula Drive to a right-in, right-out only road.

MDOT said there were challenges with the city’s proposed design, including limited access to Bryant Park and businesses like the Blue Goat. Preventing left turns onto Peninsula Drive could either turn Rose Street into a new cut-through near the gas station or push cars up to Garfield and down Peninsula to access the beach and businesses. Blue Goat owner Sebastian Garbsch tells The Ticker he was caught off guard by the city’s design, saying that instead of “fixing one of the two only access points to the peninsula, (it would) effectively eliminate it.” Garbsch says he prefers the MDOT design that offers both a harder intersection angle and a dedicated left turn lane at Peninsula, which he believes would minimize accidents, slow vehicle speeds, and still maintain access to businesses and Old Mission for the “5,000-plus people who live on the peninsula.”

MDOT said the Peninsula Drive option offering a dedicated left turn will require narrowing road lanes to 10 feet. That will require special state and federal approval for a design variance, as the standard is typically 12 feet. That is also true of other intersections along Grandview Parkway where MDOT hopes to add new left-turn lanes. Representatives said they should know in the next few weeks if they have approval to proceed with 10-foot lanes, a pivotal milestone in the design process that will have implications for the entire corridor. Some residents asked whether MDOT could eliminate instead of adding more lanes, such as going to three lanes; representatives said they’d considered a “road diet” but with 25,000-35,000 cars a day, Grandview Parkway’s traffic volumes were too high for such a design.

In response to other design questions – such as if MDOT could lower the speed for Grandview Parkway or had considered using roundabouts or underground crossings in the reconstruction – representatives said all those options had been explored, with most discounted for logistical, timing, or cost considerations. Speed limits are set by a formula that calculates the 85th percentile speed, or the speed at which 85 percent of drivers typically go under favorable conditions. Lucas Porath, project manager for MDOT, warned that because of how fast drivers go along Grandview Parkway, initiating a speed review process could actually risk producing a recommendation “coming back at 40 (miles per hour) instead of 35” for the road’s speed limit. “We are interested in slowing the speeds to the extent possible,” he said, noting that MDOT is using narrowed lanes, enhanced pedestrian crossings, and traffic-calming elements like medians and vertical landscaping to slow cars in the reconstruction design.

While this week’s meetings offered a key opportunity for the public to give feedback, MDOT representatives said there will still be more opportunities to weigh-in as the state works to finalize designs in the coming months. “The sooner we have the comments the better, now that we have preliminary plans,” said Porath. “I wouldn’t say there’s a deadline. I would just encourage folks to be engaged and provided as much feedback as possible as soon as possible.”

To view MDOT's complete PowerPoint presentation on the Grandview Parkway reconstruction project, including detour maps and proposed intersection design renderings, click here.

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