2018-05-17 / Local News

Sidewalks gain over moving M-22

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

Instead of switching the locations of M-22 and the Leelanau Trail through Greilickville, how about we just install some sidewalks along both sides of M-22 and maybe put in some crosswalks?

That seems to be the direction the Elmwood Township Board appears to be taking after more than a year of on-and-off discussions about what some people called a “visionary alternative” to swap the location of the state highway with that of the non-motorized trail – and what others called, simply, a “cockamamie idea.”

Last year, the township received a grant of $10,000 from Rotary Charities and a grant of $7,500 from the regional planning agency Networks Northwest to look into the idea of substantially improving vehicular and pedestrian traffic flow along the commercial corridor through M-22. The township then hired Gourdie-Fraser Associates engineers Heather Brady and Jennifer Hodges to look into how that might be done.

The first thing the two engineers figured out was that the grant money the township had available for the study would come nowhere close to paying for a proper look at how to undertake such an ambitious project because of all the serious environmental, financial and legal questions entailed in switching the trail and the state highway.

Hodges and Brady did, however, come up with a plan for how the township might leverage additional grant funding to execute some of the ideas contained in a Greilickville Commercial Corridor Sub-Area Master Plan the township approved years ago, as well as a new master plan for the township’s marina which is a central feature of the commercial corridor.

Part of the original “sub-area master plan” called for the installation of service drives connecting parking lots on the west side of M-22, allowing easier access to businesses there without the need for vehicles to make multiple turns onto and off of the state highway. In addition, the plan called for an improved “streetscape” along M-22 with the possibility of some pedestrian crosswalks.

Several years ago, the township also acquired an underdeveloped property directly across from the marina, known as Brewery Creek, even as work was being completed on the township’s Greilickville Harbor Park directly south of the marina.

Meanwhile, Rotary Charities purchased the former Traverse City Light & Power coal dock directly south of the harbor park. Rotary opened the property up for use by the public and by the coalition of mostly non-profit organizations directly across M-22 operating under the umbrella of the Discovery Center Great Lakes.

Last year, officials of The Discovery Center convinced the Michigan Department of Transportation to try out a new kind of “seasonal” pedestrian crosswalk leading to what is now called Discovery Pier where the Maritime Heritage Alliance, the Tall Ship Company and the Inland Seas Education Association berth their historic sailing vessels. The “experimental” pedestrian crossing was declared an unqualified success after the end of its first season.

Elmwood Township supervisor Jeff Shaw said he heard recently from officials of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) that the state would be amenable to allowing more pedestrian crosswalks along M-22 in Greilickville as long as the crossings connected sidewalks on both sides of the state highway. More recently, Shaw said he’d personally called upon numerous business owners along M-22 – all of whom seem to think that having better sidewalks on M-22 along with more pedestrian crosswalks would be a good idea, according to Shaw.

Engineers Brady and Hodges told the Township Board last month that there was about $6,500 left of the grant funding they’d been using to look into the broader issue of how to make M-22 safer and more pedestrian friendly. The remaining amount, they said, might be just enough to cover the cost of them drawing up a fully-engineered plan to construct sidewalks along the township owned properties on M-22 in the heart of the Greilickville commercial district.

At its regular monthly meeting Monday night, the Elmwood Township Board authorized the engineers to produce the $6,500 plan. A motion to that effect by trustee James “Rookie” O’Rourke was supported by trustee Kyle Trevas and carried in a 4-1 vote of the board.

Trustee Terry Lautner and Treasurer Deb Street were absent.

Trustee Dave Darga cast the lone “no” vote. Darga said he thought having new sidewalks and more pedestrian crosswalks across M-22 was a bad idea.

Although the planning money the engineers are using came from grants from outside the township government, no one yet knows where money might come from to construct the sidewalks or crosswalks.

Engineer Brady noted that the township is in a good position to apply for more grant funding because of the extensive planning that has already gone into improving the M-22 commercial corridor in Greilickville overall.

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