Road ideas: Harder to kill than zombies

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Garfield Township’s supervisor, Chuck Korn, throws it out there (Record Eagle). “Everything about Hartman-Hammond makes sense except that everyone has bad feelings about it.

Well, that, and the subsequent reports and findings that say the $20-$30 million price tag is a boondoggle, that traffic patterns don’t support it, and the subsequent sprawl it will induce was rejected. As well, money for the alternative is already in place (RE).


Traverse City’s proposed West Boardman Lake Ave. (MW) is still bubbling under the surface. Apparently, City staff are still driving the Old Town By-pass towards a future implementation complete with shifting rationales. Yet, no added value to the community has been presented, no long-term relief for Cass St. vehicle miles per day has been shown, and no overwhelming support is present (PDF).

What guest contributor and Old Town resident Megan Olds wrote in Let’s Call a Spade a Spade (MW) back in March 2011, a response to a well attended BLA meeting, still stands true:

…I went to the meeting with the impression that scenarios were still being explored and that building the road was not a “given.” This is what the community was told at the last meeting about the proposed Boardman Lake Avenue project in February.

If the City is committed to building the road, then let’s implement a quality public input process to talk about placemaking in this neighborhood. Let’s talk about land use and natural resource protection and recreation and safety and aesthetics, and about the needs of the Avenue’s users and its neighbors. It felt like that’s where the organizers of last night’s meeting might have wanted the dialogue to go, but because the City’s commitment to build the road is not being stated clearly, people were not coming to the table to have that type of conversation.

The conceived vision 40 years ago had merit, subsequent years and changes in adjacent infill potential have altered the context that made BLA a valuable addition. A plan to expanded the grid would be welcome; what is being drawn up is an urban bypass–No thank you.

Visit City website for somewhat current information available on the West Boardman Lake Ave.

UPDATE: The above link also contains a link to the Draft Eighth Street Framework Plan, which among other things, gives a shout out to the BLAh.

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  1. Brian
    September 6, 2012 at 10:54 am

    As recently as a year ago, I heard within the Old Towne neighborhood that “the majority of traffic just wants to go east-west”, and that we just needed the study completed to support that. That origination-destination study was completed by URS last year (link here). That study concluded that fewer than 30% of the vehicles that use Cass and Union would shift to BLA.

    While some considered this as an improvement worth implementing, I have yet to hear any mention of the effects on traffic in Old Town from the following:

    * Hagarty office being completed (with additional commercial space on the first floor)
    * New commercial (a bank and the Om Cafe) and residential space at Mid Town
    * New commercial and residential space to be built this fall on the south lawn at the Old Town parking deck on 8th St
    * New commercial and residential space at Washington and Cass Street (Washington Place, currently a parking lot)
    * Increasing commercial activity at the south end of Old Town between 14th and 16th Streets (Right Brain, studios,etc.) and new residential on the 14th to 16th St connection.
    * Completion of the pedestrian trail around Boardman Lake.

    This continued development is welcome (to me) and will continue to attract more development and economic activity. However, with a limited number of vehicles being removed from Cass and Union by BLA, case studies indicate that the new found ‘space’ will quickly be filled by new vehicle activity accessing the new development surrounding Old Town. I think Old Town should be careful here, it may get the BLA it always wanted, but returning Cass and Union to quiet residential streets is unlikely. This isn’t to say that new pavement isn’t part of the solution, but applying 1950’s highway design methods to more complex urban traffic issues is very amateur engineering, or worse, the City is intentionally misleading Old Town residents that BLA is the solution to all their traffic problems.

  2. September 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Agreed with Brian that as far as a proposed remedy to heavy traffic on Cass and Union (and particularly Union), BLA is short-sighted at best. The O/D study only confirms that the number of cars that would be diverted to BLA is not significant in the long-run when you consider (as Brian nicely lays out) that the downtown is going to continue to develop, and traffic will only then return to its pre-BLA level on Cass/Union in 10(?) years down the road.

    So why not spend $1M(?) on the BLA even if it’s only to buy property owners long six blocks of Cass street some relief from traffic for 10 years? Because that’s far too much money to spend for so little benefit. Especially considering that money could be put towards projects that could benefit the Old Town neighborhood, as well as the city generally, as far as building parks and more trails along the west side of Boardman Lake. That could happen under the brownfield plan as it is today, or with some minor amendments that (if the City were behind them) the brownfield authority would almost surely adopt.

    Another big reason not to build the BLA is that it will further blight the west side of Boardman Lake. Hasn’t anything been learned from the lesson of Grandview Parkway as far as the wisdom of building high volume roads next to high value waterfront?

    And another reason not to build the BLA is it is premised on the idea that the City has to have a high-volume cut-through route running right through its middle. Why else would you build a BLA that would be 1/2 mile long with no traffic control signal on it? The City’s master plan calls for the area along 8th between Boardman and Woodmere to be a dense area of mixed-use, which makes complete sense given that areas proximity to the Lake, the River, and downtown. That area of 8th will never live up to this potential, however, as long as 8th continues to be the high-volume, high speed roadway that it is. Building a BLA bypass will only perpetuate the under-development along 8th.

  3. June Thaden
    September 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Strange how these ideas of Boardman Lake Ave & Hartmann/Hammond linger. There must be big money-people behind them. Neither one of them makes any sense to me. And how, when you think they have been dropped, the City (or other official) keeps working away, and voila, there it is! Is governmental transparency impossible in TC/GT County?

  4. September 6, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    One reason that BLA keeps lingering is that, at least for the last decade or so, it’s had it’s own dedicated funding source as a result of the brownfield plan that was created for the west side of Boardman Lake. The brownfield plan identifies certain activities that are eligible for money that is tax captured from development of that west side, one of those eligible activities is the construction of BLA. Money from that brownfield plan can only be spent in the brownfield area on the west side of the Lake, and not in other places in the City or on other projects not in the brownfield plan.

  5. Katie
    September 8, 2012 at 7:15 am

    Gary, you have stated that City Staff is still supporting this proposed BLA but with ‘shifting rationales’. What exactly does that mean? Are they still enamored with the notion of BLA moving traffic off of Cass & Union (which of course is already discussed here), or have they come up with some (allegedly) new idea to try to justify this thing? Do they really have anything to support it other than their oft-spoken reference to ‘it’s free money’, and of course the ‘promise to the neighborhood’ from 20 years ago? Indeed – it’s like a zombie idea!!

  6. September 8, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Katie, that phrase was a bit clumsy on my part, but the gist is that the rationale for the BLA seems to always have a reason dependent on the audience. Occasionally, it is still presented as an extension of the grid despite very little evidence of that.

    I have little sense of a timetable when the BLA will resurface for consideration, but internally it continues to be mentioned as an answer to Cass and Union St., recently resurfacing in a draft of the 8th St. frame work plan (PDF-last page) Brian’s observations above are spot-on in regards to this idea. Certainly, more to come.

    I encourage anyone who is interested in the outcome to swing by the City to inquire about the plans. Let us all know what you find out.

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