Grandview Parkway Project Moved Back; MDOT Starts Planning For Phase Two From Division To Cherry Bend
By Beth Milligan | June 13, 2022
Those bracing for the reconstruction of Grandview Parkway and East Front Street between Garfield Avenue and Division Street will receive a year’s reprieve: The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) now plans to tackle construction work in 2024 instead of 2023, avoiding overlapping with city bridge work next year and allowing more time to order materials. That project will be followed in 2025 by a second major 2.2-mile project to reconstruct Grandview Parkway/M-22/South West Bay Shore Drive between Division Street and Cherry Bend Road. MDOT will host an open house Tuesday to start gathering public feedback on design options for that stretch, which could include a roundabout at the Grandview Parkway/M-22/M-72/Bay Street intersection.
MDOT originally planned to tackle the $19 million reconstruction of East Front Street and Grandview Parkway between Garfield and Division in March 2023, wrapping up in fall 2023. But two factors have now pushed back that timeline: The City of Traverse City’s plans to tackle two more upcoming bridge projects (the North Cass and South Union bridges) and supply chain issues requiring a long lead time to order materials. Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board members and staff expressed serious concerns about the possibility of bridge work overlapping with MDOT’s project, but also were doubtful both bridges could get done before the March start date on Grandview Parkway.
“We can’t have the bridges down when Grandview Parkway is under construction,” DDA CEO Jean Derenzy said in February. “It’s too much.” DDA Board Vice Chair Scott Hardy agreed, saying an overlap in projects would “create an economic moat around downtown Traverse City.”
MDOT North Region Communications Representative James Lake says the department had conversations with city officials about those and other construction projects and that the state was “happy to entertain” the possibility of adjusting the timeline to avoid conflicts. Lucas Porath, MDOT project engineer, adds that the current lead time for ordering materials – especially underground utility supplies – strengthened the argument for pushing back work. “Particularly for the water main, in the city utility portion of the project, (the lead time) is really long right now,” he says. “It’s six to nine months.”
MDOT now plans to do some preparatory and utility work after Labor Day 2023, then tackle the main construction project in 2024. That timeline still hinges on MDOT receiving federal approval to have narrower lanes in the project corridor: 10-11 feet wide instead of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA's) standard of 12 feet wide, a variance that is key to the road’s redesign. MDOT hasn’t received a FHWA answer yet, but Porath says conversations are “very positive” and that he doesn’t anticipate any issues. “This is getting lots of attention and scrutiny internally and with the (FHWA), so we’re working through that, but I’ve got no red flags right now,” he says. “We fully expect to be approved and are proceeding like they will. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to stay on schedule. It would drastically change the design.”
The year-long delay offers at least one upside: More time for the city and TART Trails to work on plans to widen and extend the TART Trail in conjunction with the Grandview Parkway project. An early conceptual design envisions separating uses for different trail users and more than doubling the trail width in some places, from 6-8 feet up to 16 feet wide. Plans also call for eventually extending the trail past the Senior Center down Peninsula Drive to the Bryant Park intersection. The city’s recently approved 2022-23 budget kicks in funding to complete more detailed design and engineering work on the possible trail reconstruction. “We are hoping to go out to bid soon for design and engineering on that stretch,” says TART Trails Communications & Policy Director Brian Beauchamp. “We will still have to raise the necessary funding for construction. But an extra year does buy us a little extra time. It’s a potential silver living.”
In the meantime, MDOT is getting an early start on collecting public feedback on the second phase of construction: The $16.6 million reconstruction of Grandview Parkway/M-22/South West Bay Shore Drive between Division Street and Cherry Bend Road. MDOT will hold a public open house Tuesday at Elmwood Township Hall from 4pm to 6pm to review the 2.2-mile project, which will include the removal and replacement of all old pavement, the replacement of sidewalks and nonmotorized paths, upgrading the traffic signal at Cherry Bend Road, and a redesign of the Grandview Parkway/M-22/Bay Street/M-72 intersection.
That intersection is “going to be a key part of this project,” says Porath. Initial conceptual design options include a multi-lane roundabout, either with or without Bay Street access, or redesigning the intersection so that Bay Street is right-in, right-out only and the “pre-signal” near Bay Street is removed. A single-lane roundabout was eliminated as an option for the intersection because models showed it was “fatally flawed,” according to project documents. Other design concepts include relocating the TART Trail to the north side of the highway, having Elmwood Avenue be right-in, right-out only at Grandview Parkway, adding HAWK signals and pedestrian medians throughout the corridor, making sidewalk ramp upgrades to comply with ADA standards, and extending the trail and sidewalk system down to Cherry Bend Road. Unlike the first Grandview Parkway project, the stretch between Division and Cherry Bend offers “no good detour options,” Porath says; MDOT will likely therefore keep one lane of traffic open while work is underway.
Part of why MDOT is starting design work now in 2022 – three years ahead of construction, planned for April to November 2025 – is the number of stakeholders that will be impacted. A recent legal opinion obtained by the city also states MDOT must get city approval for design work on Grandview Parkway. As it did with the first phase of Grandview Parkway work, MDOT plans to have regular meetings with representatives from the city and partners like Norte and TART Trails, with the latter potentially seeing a significant redesign of the trail in the corridor. “The more people that are involved now, the better, so we have a project that ultimately reflects the values of the community,” says Beauchamp. “We’re going to be advocating for the safety of all road users, which would include pedestrians and cyclists. It would be our hope, regardless of what scenario is selected, that it’s an improvement.” The phase two Grandview Parkway project also crosses multiple jurisdictional lines, bringing Elmwood Township to the table as another project partner. Starting early also allows for time for budgetary adjustments and/or property acquisition in the event a major design option like a roundabout is chosen, says Porath.
Porath notes MDOT is only “at the very beginning stages” of reviewing design options, with early concepts shared with the public just “to get some ideas flowing.” He adds: “We haven’t evaluated those ideas very closely yet. We haven’t made any decisions. Anything is really on the table. We’re trying to come super early and put this project on everyone’s radar, let them know what to expect, and receive any concerns or ideas people might have.”Comment