2017-06-22 / Front Page

M-22 gets an island

Walkers get safe haven
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

It’s no secret that pedestrians trying to cross M-22 anywhere along the busiest stretch of highway in Leelanau County face substantial risk of being run over.

However, officials of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) say they may help to resolve the problem.

According to MDOT officials, June 22 was the date they planned to install a newfangled “seasonal pedestrian refuge island” in the middle of the M-22 commercial corridor in Greilickville as a “pilot project.”

It’s the first time anyone has attempted such a project in Michigan, according to MDOT offi- cials.

“The township is excited to see what possibilities this concept could bring to the corridor,” said Elmwood Township planner and zoning administrator Sara Kopriva. “It may be that seasonal pedestrian islands could also be installed elsewhere along our Greilickville commercial corridor.”

The temporary “island” will be placed in the highway near the Discovery Center-Great Lakes group of nonprofits on S. West Bay Shore Drive. The structure may be used by pedestrians to stop halfway across the highway and safely wait for traffic to pass before proceeding to the other side of the road.

The Discovery Center is the home of five water-focused non-profit organizations, notably the Maritime Heritage Alliance and the Inland Seas Education Association which operate tall ships from Discovery Pier on West Grand Traverse Bay. The Discovery Center offers activities on both sides of the highway, and has been busing visitors across for safety and convenience.

After the busy summer visitor season is over, the “island” would be removed in the fall so snow plowing can be conducted unimpeded. The island would then be re-installed again in the spring.

Officials of Elmwood Township, where the Discovery Center is located, say they’re encouraged by MDOT’s pilot project and have been advocating for “traffic calming” measures on the state highway for years. In keeping with a “Greilickville Commercial Corridor Sub-Area Master Plan,” township offi- cials last year asked for a traffic study on M-22 through Greilickville.

Results of the MDOT-sponsored traffic study indicated that placement of a traffic signal along that stretch of M-22 would only result in more traffic congestion.

MDOT officials said they considered “more elaborate options, such as a tunnel or an overpass,” but decided that the seasonal pedestrian island would be “the most economical approach.”

Tony Ansorge represents much of Elmwood Township on the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners. His enthusiasm for MDOT’s plan was muted.

“It’s better than nothing,” Ansorge said. “But I still think people are going to get hurt trying to cross M-22 on foot, even with a temporary pedestrian refuge island in place.

“I’m not the only one in Elmwood Township who would prefer that a pedestrian overpass or two be constructed on M-22 in Greilickville – just as there is a pedestrian overpass at the state park in Traverse City,” Ansorge added.

Development of properties along the Greilickville commercial corridor is beginning to take off. This week, the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners approved a brownfield redevelopment plan for a 118-unit hotel and 28-slip marina along M-22 in Greilickville.

Developer Ron Walters said he’s hopeful that MDOT will allow the addition of a temporary pedestrian refuge island in M-22 adjacent to his property once it is developed. Walter said he, too, prefers pedestrian overpasses to the temporary islands, but understood MDOT was not as enthusiastic about the idea.

“We’ll have to see how MDOT’s pilot program works out for the Discovery Center before we start discussing where other islands – or an overpass – might go someday,” said Kopriva.

Officials say a concept that surfaced last year to swap locations of the Leelanau Trail and M-22 through Greilickville remain a concept only. Even if pursued, they would not become reality for at least a decade.

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