Traverse City News and Events

Hartman-Hammond Bypass Price Tag Triples, More Road Commission Updates

By Beth Milligan | July 31, 2023

The estimated price tag for a long-discussed Hartman-Hammond bypass has ballooned from $100 to roughly $300 million, a tripling of costs that – even with federal grants covering the bulk of funding – could put the required local contribution in the $60-million-plus range. Grand Traverse County Road Commission (GTCRC) board members discussed the project Thursday and the possibility of putting a millage request to voters – a meeting at which they also discussed planning for a potential future roundabout at the North Long Lake Road/Strait Road intersection and the reconstruction of the South Airport Road/Silver Lake Road intersection, which kicks off today (Monday).

Hartman-Hammond Bypass
Building a new Hartman-Hammond crossing over the Boardman River (pictured, rendering) could cost in the $300 million range, according to new estimates – triple the $100 million price tag presented just a year ago. GTCRC Manager Brad Kluczynski told road commissioners that even with federal funding covering a significant portion of costs, “realistically we are looking at a sizable dollar amount for a local match” – in the $60 million range, he said.

In addition to inflation – construction costs are skyrocketing industry-wide right now – the bridge’s design is also contributing to its price tag. Estimated at over 2,000 feet long, the bridge’s span and height has been maximized to minimize the number of piers needed to be installed below, an effort to reduce its environmental impact. “It’s a 70-foot-high bridge to leave that valley intact,” explained Kluczynski. The price tag also doesn’t just reflect the bridge, but the entire span of the project, which will connect out onto US-31. Right-of-way acquisition for the entire project stretch is a significant part of the expense, Kluczynski said.

GTCRC staff recently met with officials from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), which must sign off for the project to move forward under a federally required National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. Kluczynski said MDOT officials seemed “interested in pursuing this and moving it forward” but encouraged GTCRC to obtain resolutions of support from surrounding counties, which staff plan to pursue. Rep. John Roth and Sen. John Damoose could also lend support in trying to obtain state funding for the project, Kluczynski said.

Road commissioners also discussed the possibility of putting a 10-year millage request to voters to fund the local match. Road Commissioner Jason Gillman said a majority of residents have supported building a bypass for years, and that a millage would give the community an opportunity to “put your money where your mouth is, bond this sucker, and just get it done.” Road Commissioner Alisa Korn noted that putting a millage request on the ballot could make the project “political,” while Vice Chair Haider Kazim said it would require a “very good educational” campaign to make sure the public understands the benefits of the project, which is intended to alleviate east-west traffic and reduce congestion on South Airport Road by over a third.

“Because if (the millage) fails, you’re not coming back from that...and all the work you’ve done up to this point is going to be down the drain,” Kazim said. He added that in the event GTCRC does pursue a millage, robust outreach will ensure that “if it truly goes down, then at least it goes down to well-informed voters and not based on misinformation.”

Long Lake Road/Strait Road
A busy intersection that’s long been of concern to Long Lake Township residents could be in line for a makeover. GTCRC will be applying for up to $600,000 in safety grant funds in August for planning and designing services for the North Long Lake Road and Strait Road intersection, Kluczynski told road commissioners.

Kluczynski said the most likely design is a “peanut” roundabout, which looks from an aerial view like an elongated peanut with two roundabouts on either end and an island in the middle (see an example here). The design would put “a roundabout at Strait Road and a roundabout at East Long Lake on Long Lake Road, and there would be a median between the two so nobody could just go around and cut through,” Kluczynski explained. “They would actually have to go through these two.”

The design would slow traffic, “which is something that Long Lake residents are concerned with because there are a lot of pedestrians that are going back and forth between (Fresh Coast Market) and Moomers,” Kluczynski said. “It also then helps reduce the problem that we have currently with people that are turning, and they have a turn signal on so people think that they’re turning onto Strait Road, when in fact they want to turn into the market.”

Kluczynski was optimistic GTCRC will be successful in its funding application, noting the grant is for “unique traffic issues that can’t be solved in standard methodologies, (and) that’s pretty much what we have there.” The project could also involve evaluating other parts of North Long Lake Road and seeing if pedestrian crossings can be improved, such as between Taylor Park and Long Lake Grocery, Kluczynski said. If grant funding is approved later this fall, GTCRC will start working on planning and design immediately over the winter, Kluczynski said, adding that staff have already begun right-of-way discussions with property owners around the intersection. Gillman said he believes residents will see “immediate beneficial effect” from a redesign, saying “there’s no question...it would make that intersection safer.”

South Airport Road/Silver Lake Road
Finally, road commissioners received an update on the reconstruction of the South Airport Road and Silver Lake Road intersection – a project that kicks off today (Monday).

Team Elmer’s is overseeing the nearly $1.3 million intersection rebuild, which will include widening South Airport Road as it approaches Silver Lake to create dual left turn lanes onto Silver Lake, as well as replacing guardrail, installing slip lining in an existing culvert, and reconstructing the traffic signal to a box-span configuration. The first month of the project will focus on signal construction, with work taking place between 7am and 7pm.

Then, immediately after Labor Day, there will be three phases of road work – starting on the west side of Silver Lake, then moving to the northeast side of South Airport and finally the southwest – with each phase taking approximately two weeks, Kluczynski said. The project is expected to last until mid-October, with lane shifts and traffic pattern changes required throughout. Kluczynski said when complete, the redesign will alleviate both the traffic back-ups that occur on South Airport Road – which can sometimes stretch back to Best Buy during peak periods – as well as on Silver Lake Road, as the signal timing will change and accommodate better traffic flow in all directions.

Multiple other road projects are underway in Grand Traverse County this week, including on Veterans Drive, Blackman Road, Hilltop Road, Harrand Road, Vanderlip Road, Cedar Run Road, Hawley Road, and Hammond Road, among others. Details on these and more projects are posted on the GTCRC Facebook page.

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