Editorial: Road commission should attend to Church Road problem

Record-Eagle photo/Jan-Michael Stump The damage from one of the two cars that have hit Duane Schmatz's Long Lake Township home in the last week. The impact did damage to the living room wall on the inside.

You can’t blame Duane Schmatz for thinking of his house as one big target.

In a recent four-day span this month, two cars ran into his house, which sits at the bottom of the hill where Church Road dead-ends into Long Lake Road.

On Jan. 1 a car driven by a Buckley woman struck Schmatz’s home. Just four days later, a car driven by an Elk Rapids man skidded past the stop sign on Church Road and slammed into the house. It left behind a cracked living room wall.

Schmatz has had it. He’s counted seven crashes around his seasonal home in 20 years. He said two cars missed his house by inches before they veered into Long Lake, while others have damaged trim or smashed through his garage.

He’s installed a flashing red light on his house to warn drivers, but he thinks more can be done. He’s right.

“The county hasn’t done anything but put up ‘stop ahead’ signs,” he said.

He wants the county road commission to add “rumble” strips and a flashing yellow light.

Grand Traverse County Road Commission Manager Jim Cook said his department hadn’t received any recent complaints from Schmatz, and that other than adding a missing 30-inch Stop Ahead sign, “based on experience and history of the intersection, we typically would not make any change to what is there now.”

He said the traffic run-ins with Schmatz’s house came about because of bad traveling conditions and drivers’ inability to stop.

But Cook added that his department may look to boost the size and visibility of road signs near Schmatz’s house, and could add flashing lights and rumble strips, both of which might warrant township Long Lake Township approval. Cook also suggested the township — and perhaps Schmatz — might share in the cost of such additions.

At the very least, signs warning of the steep hill and slippery conditions should be put up, and more creative and effective solutions considered. Drivers must slow before they crest the hill on Church and it’s too late to stop.

It’s just dumb luck that no one has been seriously injured. In the Jan. 4 crash one of the passengers was treated for an injury.

The road commission should take the lead in this matter. There’s more snow to come this season, and every snowfall puts Schmatz’s home — and maybe his or someone else’s health — right in the cross hairs.

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