Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 20, 2013

Traverse City transportation group considers changes

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A transportation planning group that lost more than $20,000 in funding from the Grand Traverse County Road Commission discussed how to repair the relationship with county leaders.

Road commissioners withdrew their annual dues to the Traverse City Area Transportation and Land Use Study last month after some members questioned TC-TALUS’ effectiveness and whether its services justify its cost.

TC-TALUS Director Matt Skeels during a Tuesday meeting relayed possible fixes to road commission concerns such as increasing communication between TALUS and its members, changing the group’s dues structure, and giving weighted votes to the largest TALUS players.

But TALUS board members asked Skeels to schedule a meeting with road commissioners before taking any action.

Skeels said both sides need to hash out some of his proposed changes.

“Yeah, we can change to a weighted-voting structure, but what will that do,” Skeels said. “I think we need a little bit of education to see where both sides stand.”

Skeels said in an earlier interview with the Record-Eagle that TALUS has great value for the Grand Traverse region. The organization manages early planning for major transportation projects and is preparing a long-range transportation plan to determine where to best spend the region’s transportation dollars in the next 20 years or so.

The work is important, he said, in part because the agency often helps local townships and governments prepare for road construction and repaving work that crosses jurisdictions. For example, the group is using a traffic demand model to analyze logical detour routes for upcoming construction work on U.S. 31.

“Why it matters is from the state and federal direction — both of those governmental agencies are really relying on consensus (from local officials),” Skeels said. “They want to see that everyone is working together, and those areas that are working together are much more likely to see additional funds directed their way.”

John Nelson, a Grand Traverse County road commissioner and a citizen-at-large representative on the TALUS board, straddles the two camps. Nelson was the only road commissioner to oppose cutting the TALUS funding. He spoke at the meeting as a member of the public and a supporter of the regional planning coalition.

Nelson hopes the road commission’s decision to withhold dues eventually improves TALUS.

“The silver lining is this may focus us a little bit,” he said.