Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 22, 2013

Highway bypass considered for TC

BY MICHAEL WALTON mwalton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Local officials are talking about rerouting the region’s state highways off Division Street and southeast of downtown Traverse City.

The officials, including Doug DeYoung, of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, Garfield Township Supervisor Chuck Korn, Grand Traverse County Commission Chairman Herb Lemcool and state Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, met about two weeks ago and discussed east-west traffic mobility — or lack thereof — in Traverse City. Part of that discussion focused on possibly rerouting U.S. 31 and M-37 off Division Street.

Korn said such a bypass would “solve a lot of problems for a lot of people.”

“Going through Traverse City is not good for the highway system, it’s not good for shippers and it’s not good for the people who live in Traverse City,” he said.

Korn said there are several ways such a bypass could occur. One potential scenario would route the state highways east onto Hartman and Hammond roads then north, possibly on Three Mile Road. That, though, would require construction of a Hartman-Hammond connector, something that has long been a contentious issue in the Grand Traverse region.

Local officials want to put the highway bypass idea on the Michigan Department of Transportation’s radar as officials from that agency start preparing their next five-year plan this fall, Lemcool said.

But DeYoung, who organized the meeting, said the officials involved did not settle on any proposed projects.

“It’s way premature to say moving U.S. 31 and M-37 is the plan,” DeYoung said. “There is no plan.”

The meeting instead focused on the best process for addressing the region’s east-west traffic problem, DeYoung said. That process, according to MDOT officials, needs to go through the Traverse City Area Transportation and Land Use Study, which performs traffic planning for the region.

“It’s all in TC-TALUS’ hands now,” DeYoung said. “They talked about it in an open meeting two days ago.”

Lemcool, a member of the TALUS board, said TC-TALUS’ Technical Committee is going to analyze several east-west traffic options and report the findings to the TALUS board this winter.

Doug Luciani, the chamber’s president and CEO, said rerouting U.S. 31 and M-37 would mean big changes for both Division Street and Hammond Road east of Lafranier Road.

“We think it could really be a catalyst for commercial growth and development (,” he said.

Officials from Traverse City did not attend the meeting organized by DeYoung, but Mayor Michael Estes said it’s time to publicly discuss east-west traffic and possibly rerouting the state highways.

“I would much rather have this become a public discussion than not become one,” he said.

Schmidt said the east-west traffic problems and whether to reroute state highways around the Traverse City area are longstanding issues.