TRAVERSE CITY — The public may have to cross that bridge again.
A decade-old, contentious proposal to build a Hartman-Hammond roads span over the Boardman River is expected to be revisited Wednesday during a 6 p.m. joint meeting of the Grand Traverse County Road Commission and board of county commissioners in the Governmental Center.
Garfield Township Supervisor Chuck Korn wants the county board to delay the demolition of the Boardman Dam and Cass Road Bridge that sits atop the dam while the road commission investigates the potential for connecting Hartman and Hammond roads across the river. Korn began to champion the idea last fall, and found an ally on the county board.
“Chuck Korn and I are pushing to not do the bridge at Cass Road, but do the Hartman-Hammond Bridge where it was designed to go in the first place,” said Herb Lemcool, Garfield Township representative and county board chairman. “It will increase the natural area where the dam is now and give a great east-west mobility connection for the community.”
The road commission began studying the bridge in the late 1990s to improve cross-town traffic. It drew stiff opposition from environmental and land use groups.
The debate raged until late 2004 when the road commission shelved the project. Bridge funds were reauthorized in 2005 to fund The Grand Vision land use and traffic study, which commenced in 2007 and took almost four years to complete. The report recommended the Hartman-Hammond connection remain tucked away until a future date.
Some road commissioners agree it’s time to take another look at Hartman-Hammond, but not at the Cass Road bridge’s expense.
The road commission asked that the committee that oversees the removal of three dams on the Boardman River take the Boardman Dam next, while it has funding to replace the bridge. The county has a $3 million state grant, along with U.S. Army Corps of Engineer funding and a recent $350,000 grant for bridge design it’s likely to accept today.
Korn contends Hartman-Hammond’s location is a more natural connection for most motorists and would be more effective than Cass Road as a bypass and east-west connector.
Korn wants the county to return to its original schedule and remove Sabin Dam next.
“Let us have some time as a community to talk about it,” Korn said. “I think Hartman-Hammond would be better economically, better environmentally, and better for the community.”
Road commission Chairman Carl Brown believes two distinct issues are at play.
“The Hartman-Hammond for me is a more regional type of route,” Brown said. “There is a need for another bridge, but that’s a future planning type of thing.”
The Boardman River boasts just four local crossings and the community can’t afford to lose one, said Jim Cook, road commission manager. He has concerns about the ability of the two culverts at the South Airport Road river crossing to handle a major flooding event.
“The Cass Road bridge isn’t going to solve the traffic congestion problem ... and we need a serious bridge,” Cook said. “But I think they are two separate issues. Cass Road Bridge is a local bridge.”
Korn and Lemcool are concerned if the road commission builds the Cass Road Bridge it will be more difficult to obtain funding and approval for Hartman-Hammond.
Cook acknowledged the concern and called it a “tough one,” but favors rebuilding the Cass Road span.
John Nelson fought the original Hartman-Hammond bridge proposal and now holds a seat on the road commission. He agrees the community should discuss another crossing, but not until after it builds the Cass Road bridge.
“If we would lose that crossing it would be years before we would ever get that alternative crossing,” Nelson said. “It would be irresponsible not to replace this bridge when it’s possible with money already identified.”
Lemcool and Nelson agree on one thing: they both expect a big turnout for Wednesday’s meeting.
“It’s the perfect storm -- the dam and the bridge coming together and we are going to have to have a decision,” Lemcool said.