KALKASKA — The cars that wheel past Bargains Galore Dollar Store are the best and worst part of its downtown Kalkaska location.
“That is the lifeblood of the downtown area,” said James Hagler, who owns the store with his wife Kathern. “There are millions and millions of dollars driving past this building. The key is you need to stop them.”
Over 16,000 cars drive through downtown Kalkaska on a given day. But few drivers on Cedar Street, a four-lane road where traffic from M-72, U.S. 131 and M-66 converge, stop.
That’s one reason the Village of Kalkaska is renovating its downtown. It received a $750,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and will add $670,000 from its own coffers to redesign the street to add benches, landscaping, energy-efficient lighting, crosswalks, new curbs and sidewalks in hopes the face lift will boost the downtown economy.
Dave McCaw, an engineer for the Michigan Department of Transportation, said the project could be just what Kalkaska needs to slow traffic. The speed limit jumped from 25 to 35 mph in 2010 after a traffic study showed drivers already moved at 35. Renovations that add curbs, crosswalks and landscaping closer to traffic can cause drivers to slow, and if drivers revert back to 25 mph, a lowered speed limit could follow.
“If enough people slow down we’d be able to reopen the speed limit issue and do a new study,” McCaw said.
Traffic isn’t downtown Kalkaska’s only issue. Cash Cook, director of the village’s downtown development authority, said the past 20 years have been tough on Cedar Street. An economic boom from the oil and gas industry led to significant development in the 1970s, but a slower economy and the introduction of online shopping and big box stores took a toll on downtown. Cash hopes an active, walkable and attractive area will help turn around fortunes.