City leaders to weigh in on proposed TART trail expansion

Race against time of an expected spring 2023 start date for the complete reconstruction of Grandview Parkway – a once-in-a-generation project that is expected to significantly redesign the downtown freeway and impact traffic for months to come. next year – Traverse City Planning Commissioners and Parks and Recreation Commissioners will next week weigh in on plans to widen and extend the TART Trail as part of this project. Consulting group Progressive AE is helping the city, Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and TART Trails staff with a concept design plan to more than double the width of the trail in places – up to 16 feet wide – and eventually extend beyond the Senior Center down Peninsula Drive to the intersection of Bryant Park. Support from city officials could give TART Trails staff the go-ahead to work on finalizing engineering plans and securing funding so trail work can take place at the same time as reconstruction. on the road next year.

The Planning Commissioners will review the TART Trail expansion at their 7 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, while the Parks and Recreation Commissioners will discuss the proposal at their 6:30 p.m. meeting on Thursday. City commissioners and DDA board members are also expected to review the project at upcoming meetings. According to a memo from City Planning Director Shawn Winter, the Grandview Parkway project “offers an opportunity to make improvements to non-motorized transportation along the corridor” in addition to redesigning the road. The downtown TART trail saw more than two million trail visits per year in 2018 and 2019, according to trail counters, and “the upward trend in trail usage is expected to continue,” says Winter .

Despite the trail’s heavy use and prime location along “a world-class waterway and waterfront,” according to TART Trails Executive Director Julie Clark, the trail is only 6 to 8 feet long. feet wide on many stretches and does not have enough capacity to handle growing summer traffic. “It’s just not enough space,” says Clark. “We plan to expand the size of the trails and separate the uses, so that the trail experience is better and more comfortable for users.”

Conceptual design plans show a 16-foot-wide pathway with 10 feet dedicated to two-way bicycle use and six feet dedicated to pedestrians. “Additional width will address capacity limitations and new carriageway markings or physical separation of pedestrians and cyclists will resolve user conflicts by creating space for modes operating at different speeds” , according to Winter’s memo. He noted that “special consideration is being given to any potential impacts that widening the trail would have on riverfront parks,” adding that “there are instances where the pedestrian and cycling components of the trail could separate to preserve the existing trees”. The trail alignment is proposed to move north along the volleyball courts to reduce winter snow accumulation currently occurring due to snow clearing, while a proposed elevated crossing at Marina Drive would slow vehicles approaching the level crossing.

The expanded trail would pass through Delamar Traverse City, Sunset Park, the Traverse City Senior Center and the Great Lakes Campus of NMC. A future trail connection could lead east of the beach from Senior Center to and down Peninsula Drive, opening the possibility “for future connections with NMC, Traverse City Central High School, Eastern Elementary, the Civic Center and other points of interest in and around the base of the peninsula,” according to Winter. However, staff noted that the trail may have to narrow as it heads east due to right-of-way constraints and the projected decrease in use.” Staff recommends further design work and time for more input to understand how an improved trail facility or non-motorized access could meet community needs and address current issues. speed, traffic, and lack of safe non-motorized access along Peninsula Drive,” Winter wrote. “Staff also believe there needs to be more focus on improving non-motorized access ized at the intersection of Garfield and Front.”

Winter and Clark are part of a group of community leaders who meet regularly with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) as the state works to finalize its design plans for Grandview Parkway. MDOT will hold two virtual town hall meetings next week on the reconstruction plans on Wednesday and Thursday from 5-7 p.m., including a question-and-answer period. State officials will likely address non-motorized improvements during those meetings, with MDOT saying the reconstruction project will “improve safety at multiple intersections for all freeway users and make it more convenient and comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists crossing. Noting that it is working with TART Trails and Norte on design components, MDOT said it plans to add a “crosswalk at Peninsula Drive with an island refuge and wider sidewalks; add a crosswalk and improve the geometry of Front Street; improving the pedestrian crossing at Division Street; and partner with TART and the city to allow the trail to be extended east (Sunset Park, Hagerty Center, and Senior Center) and widened where possible.

Winter and Clark agree that MDOT has been open to ideas and feedback on the design components of the project, including the TART Trail expansion. “Our hope is that we can make improvements to the trail at the same time that the boardwalk improvements happen, because this is going to have a massive construction footprint,” says Clark. “We want to make sure we are as connected as possible. Ideally, we would be delighted to see the expansion of the trail unveiled at the same time as the inauguration of the boardwalk. We spend the year 2023 being built and then it’s done, so the community only has to go through it once.

Clark acknowledges that the timeline will require an “ambitious” effort by city and TART Trails consultants and staff to get input from all the various city councils on the trail expansion, finalize design plans and build plans. engineering, securing funds and obtaining property easements from groups like NMC and Delamar to widen the trail on their properties. Winter and Clark say they’ve already had positive conversations with these landlords and are getting feedback on their design needs, though no easement agreements have yet been finalized.

Talk on the phone with The ticker while on the Boardman Lake Trail loop — another project that required aggressive regional collaboration to complete — Clark says he’s “optimistic” that the TART Trail expansion could occur in conjunction with the Grandview Parkway reconstruction if partners locals are on board. “We think we can do it,” she said. “We have our work cut out for the next six to twelve months, but the first step is to find out what the community wants? If this is embraced by the community and identified as a priority…and if there is a coordinated effort among all partners, it can happen.

Photo credit: Progressive AE

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