When you build a $3 million house you don’t skimp on the front porch, particularly when the concrete is cracked, the paint is peeling and the lights are on the blink. That pretty much describes Traverse City’s decision to spend $396,000 to perform long-overdue work on the pedestrian tunnel that runs under Grandview Parkway at Cass Street and links the city to Clinch Park.
The city is well along in a $3 million renovation of Clinch that is likely to draw a lot more people to the park overlooking Grand Traverse Bay. That makes updating the tunnel a must, not an option.
The tunnel is crucial to getting visitors across the Parkway in one piece. While there are traffic lights at Union and Park streets that make crossing better than dodging traffic, the tunnel is a direct link from the main city parking lots and much easier — and safer — for families with kids in tow to navigate.
In recent years, however, the tunnel has gotten pretty shabby and needs work. Some visitors steer away from the tunnel because it’s perceived as dark, dingy and a bit ominous; with its poor lighting, using it at night can be spooky.
The upgrades should help. They include an electric snow melt system to keep the tunnel open year-round — which will be powered, at least in part, by a $21,000 solar and wind energy arrangement — resurfacing concrete walls with limestone blocks, replacing a blue awning near the entrance with new signage, installing LED lights in the tunnel itself, widening tunnel entrances, landscaping, adding bike racks and new stairs near the parking lot at the south entrance.
Upgrading the lighting and widening the entrances will be key. Easy access means a lot to families with kids and a stroller or those who use a wheelchair to get around. Even during the day the middle of the tunnel can be dim enough to give parents pause. The tunnel has to be easy to get in an out of, bright and clean, and welcoming even at night.
City Commissioner Mike Gillman, who voted against the plan, said he wanted to see a cost-benefit analysis of the solar and wind energy system. That’s a prudent request. Taxpayers may support the concept of replacing coal-fired power with renewables, but they should know the cost.
The tunnel needed work even if Clinch wasn’t getting a makeover. But it is, and the tunnel has to be up to date.