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Last Call for Boardman Lake Road PlanPrint

Thriving Communities | March 18, 2011 | By James Bruckbauer

Tuesday night is your last chance to tell the Traverse City Commission how you feel about their current plans for some long-underutilized land on the west side of Boardman Lake.

The former industrial waterfront property sits in the heart of a very desirable neighborhood within walking distance of downtown that is waiting to be rediscovered. And just like with the Depot property, we want the city to maximize the use of this valuable space.

Many residents in the city’s Old Town and Central neighborhood believe that the space is best used for building a new road along the west shore of Boardman Lake. They say it would help solve a traffic problem they face: a great deal of thru-traffic that uses their neighborhoods as a southbound shortcut from downtown to S. Airport Road.

But building a new road to reduce traffic never works. It mostly leads to more traffic, until that road is clogged up, too. What does work is restricting traffic flow. The slower and less convenient it is for people to drive down a street, the less they use it.

So, applying traffic-calming techniques on heavily used Union and Cass Streets, which cut through Old Town and Central neighborhoods, is the best way to solve the heavy traffic problems those neighborhoods endure.

The city owes it to these two neighborhoods, and the rest of the city, to at least look a using traffic calming in them before adding a new road along the west side of the lake.

According to a Grand Vision survey, 90 percent of Grand Traverse County residents said they wanted to see roads improved before building new ones. So if the city or county wants to build a new road, it should proceed with caution. It should, at the very least, seek to improve the existing roads first.

The west side of Boardman Lake does not need a big, fast, new road. It needs a proactive plan for the area that emphasizes that area’s recreational opportunities first and foremost. The new, fast road that the city is proposing will have the opposite effect, and separate more of the city from the lake.

If the plan instead included a calmed, complete street that added to the existing Boardman neighborhood street system, great. If it doesn’t include a street, that’s fine, too.

The results of the last input session demonstrated that many residents feel the same way. Residents raised questions about “using up valuable green space” and made the point that “not enough data made the case for a new road.”

We need Traverse City residents to show up on Tuesday to make sure that the message citizens sent last time, and which match the findings of the Grand Vision’s survey, is heeded. It’s essential to protect water resources, natural areas, and scenic beauty—and design our city for people, not cars.

James Bruckbauer is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s transportation policy specialist. Reach him at james@mlu.org.