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Five Ways To Beat Traffic In TC: Improve Division StreetPrint

Thriving Communities | December 10, 2013 | By James Bruckbauer

MDOT is trying to get funding to jump-start a planning process for major improvements.

Division Street has been a contentious issue in Traverse City for well over a decade.

More than 20,000 cars a day hustle down the road, which serves as a main artery for workers and visitors to the largest city in this region.

Most locals believe Division Street needs to get better. Its speeding cars have buried the city’s character, safety, and sense of place.  Its intersections are the most dangerous of any other street in town. And, because it’s the main route for delivery trucks traveling north of Traverse City, it separates families from our trails, businesses, our hospital, and the growing neighborhood on our city’s west side.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) manages the road itself, while the properties along the road are within Traverse City’s jurisdiction. Any improvements to the road will require collaboration between the state and the city.

Fortunately, city officials, MDOT, and neighborhood groups all agree that the road should accommodate traffic but that it needs to be safer for people to cross.

To do this, MDOT and the City must:

·      Continue working on short-term recommendations from the Division Street Steering Committee like adding street trees, sidewalks, and better lighting;

·      Reconstruct intersections, either by roundabouts or by taking advantage of new traffic signal technology, so they’re more efficient and cause fewer back-ups;

·      Explore creating a "median refuge islands" like this or this so that pedestrians can cross one direction of traffic at a time;

·      Add “pedestrian-activated crossing signals” that will let motorists know when pedestrians are near the road;

·      And, finally, explore ways to make it easier to bus, bike, and walk along the road to cut down on car-only traffic.

Slowly but surely, Traverse City and MDOT are moving forward with improvements. The city hopes to improve sidewalks and trees along the road. Their next step involves making sure these items are included in their 2013 City Infrastructure Policy, which prioritizes sidewalk and street improvement projects. MDOT is trying to get federal funding that would jump-start a planning process for major improvements along the portion of the road that they manage. We'll keep you posted on their progress.

Improving Division is just one piece of a broad set of strategies to reduce congestion in the Traverse City area.  Other strategies include improving Grandview Parkway and S. Airport Roads, upgrading Keystone and Beitner Roads; and making it easier for people to get around without a car.

Stay tuned for the next installments of “Five Ways to Beat Traffic in Traverse City.”


James Bruckbauer is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s transportation policy specialist. Follow him on Twitter at @jimbruckb. Reach him at