Traverse City officials will be asking voters in November for that rarest of things in this, the age of the angry voter: trust.
The city has decided to put on the Nov. 6 ballot a proposal that seeks up to 30 feet of city park land on the west side of Division Street between 8th and 14th streets to make room for critical changes to improve safety for drivers and pedestrians.
The trust part is that the city can't say much about the changes to be made there because they don't know what those changes will be.
Because Division is an extension of U.S. 31 and M-37, any changes have to be approved by the Michigan Department of Transportation. But MDOT won't draw up any plans until it knows exactly how much land it has to work with. And it won't know how much land it has to work with until after the ballot issue is decided. So voters won't be able to see any specific plans before they decide yes or no.
It's a perfect circle that could go on and on and on — just as the problems with Division have gone on and on. The only way right now to break the cycle is for city voters to believe that MDOT, with input from local officials and locals (including, we expect, public hearings), will create an acceptable plan for dealing with the backups and gridlock created by drivers making left turns.
The reality is that Division, which was designed decades ago, is a four-lane road in a left-turn-lane world. Northbound drivers trying to turn left on to 11th Street to get to Munson Medical Center and state offices along Elmwood Avenue create long backups on Division; some nearly rear-end the car in front of them, others dodge into the far right lane to get around the line, risking more mayhem.
That has been a problem for years but it has gotten worse — and will continue to get worse — with the rise of the Grand Traverse Commons, for which 11th Street is the main entrance. As more speciality shops, offices, restaurants and apartments are created there, the greater the volume of traffic will be.
The land being sought is "park" in name only. It was a long-unused corner of the Traverse City Regional Psychiatric Hospital later turned over to the city, and it hasn't been used for anything in decades. Helping solve the Division Street problem would be its highest, best use ever.
Division is a menace and must be fixed; all we need is a little trust.