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Voters Want Movement on Division StreetPrint

Thriving Communities | November 15, 2012 | By James Bruckbauer

A majority of voters in Traverse City opted to give the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) a bit more flexibility when designing improvements for Division Street, the busy corridor that currently cuts off families and residents from the city’s growing west side.

The outcome of the recent local election signaled hope for many Traverse City families that improvements are possible along a dangerous thoroughfare that cuts through town.

A majority of voters in Traverse City opted to give the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) a bit more flexibility when designing improvements for Division Street, the busy corridor that currently cuts off families and residents from the city’s growing west side.

The vote marks a turning point in a process that started last spring, when Traverse City commissioners made the commitment to make Division safer. They started the process by committing to short-term improvements like speed radar signs and improved sidewalks, but to jump-start the long-term process in working MDOT, voters needed to signal willingness to consider parting with city-owned land.

Almost 60 percent of voters gave that signal on Nov. 6, showing public officials that they’re ready to work collaboratively with the city and the state to design a street that meets our city’s goals.

I’m optimistic about our community’s capacity to work together to design a street that meet the needs of all travelers, whether they’re in a car or on foot.

But what’s next?

The city still has to hold true on its commitment to seek funding and implement short-term improvements like better street trees and sidewalks, as recommended by the Division Street Steering Committee.

And to make this a truly collaborative process, we hope city officials restore the Steering Committee to act as a communications avenue between city and state planning officials and other stakeholders like neighbors, businesses, and nonprofits.

Meanwhile, the state will make Division Street a higher priority in the region and may soon schedule the project for evaluation. That process will require additional community consensus and money, and that takes time. Patience, as they say, is a virtue, and when talking about this project, necessary.

In the end, we hope the outcome will be a Division Street that blends, not divides, neighborhood values with the need to move people efficiently around town. We’ll continue to work toward a street that improves traffic flow, but is safer for people to travel along and to cross—no matter how they’re getting around.

We’ll keep you posted on how you can get involved.