Home > Crank, Editorial > Tunnel Vision: Is The Garland St. Tunnel A Priority?

Tunnel Vision: Is The Garland St. Tunnel A Priority?

*Updated 12:50pm for basic grammar/spelling.

*Updated 6:00pm with my first EVENING EXTRA –scroll to bottom.

I’ve already written my concerns about the Garland St. – Hotel Indigo Pedestrian Underpass. It’s not so much that I’m opposed to it, it’s simply, to borrow a phrase I overheard a while back, “I just think it is a stupid idea.

Today Mayor Chris Bzdok, who sits on the Downtown Development Authority board, wrote his position on the up to, perhaps beyond, $1-million price for the tunnel. At the last meeting where the tunnel was discussed, the Mayor raised a series of questions about the need, cost and priority of the tunnel. I’m not sure if he convinced the other DDA members, but he certainly raised some eyebrows with questions that they hadn’t to that point raised. He is asking TC residents to send in their comments to the DDA board today or come to the 8AM meeting tomorrow morning to learn more and make comment. (It’s early, but they do serve coffee.)

I’m short on time this morning and I will try to re-visit, add-to or clean-up this post this afternoon. There are certainly some other concerns to be raised. However, a few basic concerns of mine are:

  1. The topography is not ideal (it’s flat), to solve that problem we will need to spend a large sum of money to make the 10-ft tall, 12-16-ft wide and almost 90-feet long tunnel inviting. The dimensions just don’t seem promising.
  2. The money to build, design and maintain the tunnel could better allocated into the over-all goal of a calmer corridor.
  3. Time, it’s too rushed. Let’s say we do want a tunnel, well, let’s do it right. We aren’t allowing enough time explore design and implementation options that might be more strategic and valuable. For example, in places where they’ve used tunnels successfully, they have done things like raise the roadway to open-up the tunnel and at the same time calm traffic slightly. There are other measures that could be considered with Grandview Parkway with a tunnel scheme, but if the City is rushed into the project they will lose those opportunities.
  4. Underpasses are a last resort measure in areas that are flat and not something to simply construct because the opportunity presents.

Again, my original post has more detail and I will share my letter to the DDA once I have a chance to write it.

A Tunnel That Works?

A pedestrian tunnel in Boulder, CO that works. Wide, bright, topographically assisted (Image by Dan Burdan)


To be fair, this tunnel is part of a larger long-term project connecting West Front to Garland St. District via a pedestrian bridge over the Boardman River in what would be a continuous line.
How I understand it, the tunnel isn’t planned to provide crossing for people who park or otherwise find themselves at the Farmer’s Market parking lot or even Union St./Grandview. It’s to provide a separated access to the bay for people on Garland St., which will in large part be hotel patrons and me stumbling out of Right Brain, and for the “future” development that is either 2 years, 10-yrs, or 20 yrs. away. In the meantime, we could choose to spend that money elsewhere.

At the last meeting, the Garland St. engineer brought-up what I thought I was a valid point about development around the BATA station on Hall St. With a well designed, properly thought-out tunnel/underpass, and excellent way-finding, it could help move people. However, an at grade crossing, with an extended median west of Hall St. could also provide access. Yes, not as 100% safe as total separation, but we also aren’t a major city with a constant onslaught of motorized traffic. For all of our Grandview Parkway issues, it isn’t Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive. With some improved facilities and a calmer corridor, providing for people at grade, above ground, can be greatly improved.

It remains to be seen. Come join me in the audience at tomorrow morning’s DDA meeting. We can drink their coffee and heckle from the back-row. (8AM • Gov. Center)

Basic questions: is the underpass going to be a place-making feature, or just something to go through? Again, what’s our priority?


Some Visuals

Here is a the only conceptual I’ve seen for the Garland St. tunnel. It’s a screengrab of Bayfront presentation video.

Here is an example of one of the best tunnels I’ve seen. It’s in Phoenix, AZ.

And, this one in Vancouver is really special.


  1. Richard Miller
    February 17, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Pedestrian underpasses (aka tunnels) can be pleasant, dramatic, and exciting ways to move pedestrians and bicyclists beneath busy vehicular traffic, and many positive examples exist all over the world. Commonly known examples familiar to many here can be found in New York City’s Central Park, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, and a recent addition to Chicago’s Grant Park at the museum complex just to name a few. All, however, are generously wide and dramatically approached: show me a child, or adult as well, whose heart doesn’t race at he prospect of passing through them.

    Central Park Arch Underpass NYC Path NEW YORK CITY 2010 Christian Montone

    Contrast the above with the embarrassing squalid, “sewer pipe” example––cramped, damp, dark, and usually smelling of urine––that connects Traverse City’s downtown with Clinch Park. Building another version at Garland Street of what was already done wrong at Cass would be a waste of money whatever the cost. Done right, and constructed in the right location––rethink Cass AND Garland––it might well be a highly worthwhile investment. Not cheap, yes, but safe, visually appealing, and used by truly large numbers of residents and visitors.

    Hint: requires input AND CONTROL, by design professionals, not highway engineers!

  2. February 17, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    I appreciate your comments Richard and agree that well designed and located tunnels that fit into their context can be very attractive and exciting to pass under walk or roll through. To achieve that, the separated throughway needs to almost be the focus, not a secondary addition, and certainly needs to be led by designers, not ordinary engineers. I appreciate the phrasing you use: input and control.

  3. M. Hazard
    February 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Gary do you have the comment link for the DDA?

  4. February 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    I wish they had an easy comment link! Here is a PDF listing the DDA board with contact information.

    Or, cut and paste this collection of the DDA board and the director emails. not certain all are current:

    chrisbzdok@gmail.com, rossb@wtcmradio.com, ncf1997@aol.com,burkholder@liaa.org, janc@traversemagazine, steve.constantin@gmail.com, idf@charter.net, tmjackson@chartermi.net, cjudson@shrr.com,lmbagdon4@hotmail.com,joew@versustech.com, bryan@downtowntc.com

  5. networktcmi
    February 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    The more I think about the tunnel at Garfield the more I think if the hotel wants the tunnel at their site let them build it at their cost. and If your absolutely certain you want and need to spend a million dollars or more then upgrade the existing tunnel at Cass which is more centrally located to the parking ramps and lots of Traverse City. We already have too much traffic at the merging of Division Bay and the Parkway so building the tunnel further away from parking will result in street parking to shorten the distance they need to walk. Congesting an already taxed 1/4 mile.

  6. Matt Ross
    February 18, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Apparently the DDA is out of touch with the citizens of Traverse City. I was excited about the tunnel at first,but my mind was changed by this site and others.

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