It may be the most aptly named street in Traverse City.
Division, one of the city's busiest transportation corridors, which stretches from Fourteenth Street to Grandview Parkway, intersects directly between residential Central Neighborhood and high-profile commercial destinations including the Village at Grand Traverse Commons and Munson Medical Center.
Locals have long complained that the highway is noisy and dangerous, difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to cross and prone to frequent auto accidents – particularly at the intersection of Division and Eleventh streets, where drivers must turn left across two lanes of opposing traffic to enter the Commons.
Tuesday, November 6 city residents have an opportunity to vote on a proposal that will allow TC officials to work with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to study solutions for the corridor – but the plan has the community as divided as the highway itself.
First, some brass tacks: Traverse City Proposal 1 essentially aims to give the go-ahead to MDOT to begin redesign studies of Division (which is under MDOT's jurisdiction because it is a state highway) by authorizing the Traverse City Commission to transfer up to 30 feet of property along the road for expansion in the event a redesign plan is agreed upon. The authorization is good for up to a decade, with commissioners empowered to transfer the property only – and this is key – if they first approve MDOT's proposed plan.
Because its estimated survey costs are between $500,000 and one million dollars, MDOT will not undertake any redesign studies unless it is certain the property – which would likely be a crucial component of any plan – is available for use.
James Bruckbauer, transportation policy specialist at the Michigan Land Use Institute (MLUI) in Traverse City, strongly supports the proposal. While critics have expressed concern that the move gives a “blank check” to commissioners to dispose of city property, Bruckbauer counters the proposal simply makes the land available for study.
“It will take many years, many studies, many tests, and many, many public forums before any new plans or designs are proposed,” says Bruckbauer. “Not only that, future commissioners will have to approve any proposed design.”
Some prominent community members, including local attorney Grant Parsons and former city mayor Jim Tompkins, have strongly opposed the proposal. Parsons encouraged residents to vote “hell no” on the ballot, saying the property in question should be retained as parkland and that MDOT can't be trusted. Tompkins worries that a proposed redesign might include a roundabout or an additional turn lane on Division – improvements some argue are desperately needed, but others have criticized.
Bruckbauer points out that residents will have input on any proposed plans “every step of the way,” and that denying MDOT the flexibility it needs to study potential options for Division will effectively take long-term improvements to the road “off the table.”
“All this proposal does is start the process,” Bruckbauer says. “If we want to keep traffic moving safely, and make it easy for pedestrians and cyclists to cross, we have to look at long-term solutions for Division. If we don't, we're just going to end up in the exact same position ten or fifteen years from now.”
Complete details on Traverse City Proposal 1, including the official ballot language and FAQs on the proposal, are available online here.
What are your thoughts on Proposal 1? Please comment below!