Early TART Redesign Concepts Highlight Potential Changes To Murchie Bridge, Delamar, Sunset Park
By Craig Manning | Feb. 21, 2023
The firm hired to lead a redesign of approximately 2.5 miles of prime TART Trail infrastructure in the core of Traverse City unveiled its latest design ideas at a series of public engagement sessions held last week. In addition to reiterating previously announced design concepts — such as a new approach that would widen the TART in town and divide it between pedestrian and cyclist sections — Progressive AE also highlighted a range of new ideas, including the construction of a new pedestrian bridge to run parallel to Murchie Bridge, a “shared road” concept to address trail/sidewalk bottleneck issues near Delamar Resort, and more.
Last week’s public engagement events – which included a virtual session on Wednesday (February 15) and a pair of in-person focus groups on Thursday – represent the first public-facing step for the TART redesign effort, which officially kicked off in January. Last November, City of Traverse City commissioners voted to approve a $448,000 contract with Progressive AE, a Grand Rapids-based architectural and engineering firm, to oversee engineering and design services for the undertaking. The project’s partners – TART, the city, and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) – are aiming to tackle reconstruction and expansion of the TART in 2024, to coincide with next year’s Grandview Parkway rebuild.
Leading the first round of public engagement forums were Progessive AE’s Jess Howard (a senior civil engineer) and Sara Moring-Hilt (an associate planner). The two led engagement session participants through a presentation that highlighted the current design plans and ideas for the project, as well as several breakout activities intended to generate feedback and ideas for how to move forward.
Per Howard, the TART revamp plan was approximately 30 percent designed as of last week. That 30 percent includes all the features of early conceptual designs that were shared with the community last year – chief among them a plan to double the width of the TART in spots and segment it out into a 10-foot-wide cycling trail and a six-foot-wide pedestrian trail.
Moring-Hilt said during Wednesday’s virtual session that the split-use approach is a best practice that Progressive AE noticed in many of the most beloved trails it researched around the country – including Detroit’s Dequindre Cut Greenway, Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Those trails, Moring-Hilt explained, use more substantial widths and more deliberate traffic direction to minimize congestion, collisions, and other traffic flow problems. Speaking of the Chicago Lakefront Trail – which stretches 19 miles and splits its traffic into a 14-foot cyclist trail and a 20-foot pedestrian trail, Moring-Hilt described the result as “a road for people, which is exciting, because it provides a whole new way of transportation and recreation that wouldn’t be allowed by having a smaller trail.”
The split-use concept won’t work for the full span of the TART Progressive AE has been charged with revamping. That stretch, which goes from the parking lot by the West End Beach bathhouse to the intersection of Peninsula Drive and Eastern Avenue, includes spots where rights-of-way, trees, roads, shoreline, and other existing features won’t allow a full-width and/or segmented trail. For instance, Progressive AE plans to have the trail converge into a shared-use, 12-foot-wide path between Clinch Park and the Delamar, given constraints caused by the nearby roadway and other features. Widths are also restricted at certain points along Front Street between the Delamar and Peninsula Drive, while the section of the trail that will run along Peninsula Drive remains a question mark.
Peninsula Drive fits squarely into the 70 percent share of the project that Progressive AE has yet to design. (At the moment, that stretch only shows as a dotted line along the roadway on Progressive AE’s conceptual drawings.) Howard said her firm is hoping to get significant community impact on what they’d like to see along that stretch, which currently has neither a TART-style trail nor a sidewalk for most of its length. Per City Planner Shawn Winter, the city right-of-way along Peninsula Drive ranges from 70-80 feet in width, which does give space for a trail on that road. That corridor has recently sparked some local controversy for being unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists in its existing configuration, which a dedicated trail could help rectify.
Progressive AE is also seeking feedback on what amenities to include along the trail, which might range from function-driven fixtures like bike racks and seating areas to beautification elements like art installations or new landscaping features. One core goal of the project, Howard and Moring-Hilt reiterated on numerous occasions, is to make it easier for users to access and interface with the shoreline and with the beaches, parks, businesses, and other landmarks.
Other notable changes that Progressive AE is eyeing are a new pedestrian bridge at the Murchie Bridge crossing and a new design for where the TART veers past the Delamar. Of the former feature, Howard said that building an additional bridge over the Boardman would be necessary to bring any additional width to that point in the trail. The new bridge would connect with and run parallel to the existing crossing and would offer two pathways for traffic to cross the river (design concept pictured left). As for the Delamar, Howard acknowledge that particular part of the trail as a main “pinch point” for traffic, and said Progressive AE is currently in talks with the Delamar about “how we can improve that space for everyone.” The proposed concept, pictured right, would effectively merge the sidewalk with part of the Delamar parking lot, creating a “shared space” for pedestrians and vehicles.
Feedback at Wednesday evening’s virtual session included requests for better mechanisms for controlling ice and snow buildup along the trail in the winter (particularly around Clinch Park and the marina) and potential design tweaks to move the trail further away from vehicular traffic on the stretch between the Hagerty Center and Peninsula Drive. Progressive AE plans to collect all feedback from last week’s session and take it back to the drawing board for ongoing design and visioning. Another round of sessions is scheduled for March 15-16, at which point Progressive AE plans to have about 75 percent of its design worked out. The firm will then return for a final round of engagement events in April to present draft designs. That timeline is important to keep, Howard said, because Progressive AE needs to allow enough time to submit grant applications and secure funding to ensure that it construction could feasibly take place next year.
For her part, Moring-Hilt is hopeful that public engagement around the project will grow each month. “This is for you,” she said Wednesday. “The city recognizes that, and they want you guys to enjoy the amenities and trails here.”
More details about the TART revamp – including a video recording of last week’s virtual session, a copy of Progressive AE’s presentation slides, and details about the next round of engagement sessions – can be found here.Comment