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State’s Top Transportation Official To Grand Vision Network: Keep It UpPrint

Thriving Communities | March 20, 2012 | By James Bruckbauer

When Kirk Steudle visits northern Michigan, it’s for one of two reasons: he’s either on vacation or he’s talkin’ transportation.

MDOT Director, Kirk Steudle, and Grand Vision Transportation Network Chair, Jim Moore, chat with local leaders.

This time, the visit from the state’s transportation chief was focused on stuff that matters to folks up here: streets, sidewalks, trails, buses, and trains.

Mr. Steudle also had high praise for the Grand Vision and the regional collaboration the Vision brings when it comes to helping address Northern Michigan’s most pressing transportation challenges.

“It was the kickoff of the GV where I recognized that this is something unique,” Mr. Steudle said his visit to Traverse City. “The only place it could happen is here, with the atmosphere of collaboration and working together.

“The Grand Vision is really one of the key future pieces of transportation planning,” he continued. “The connection between land use and transportation is huge, and we have to understand that…(and the Grand Vision provides) a culture of lets figure out how to work together.”

The Director, during his visit to Traverse City earlier this month, spoke to about 50 officials in a small classroom in the Great Lakes Maritime Academy. It was just one part of a day-long visit from Steudle, which earlier in the day included the Northwest Michigan Regional Economic Summit with Governor Rick Snyder.

Director Steudle, a champion of the Grand Vision since it inception, has a great interest in tracking the progress toward the citizen’s vision. After all, his work help launch the initiative four years ago. So he sat down with the Grand Vision Network following the Summit.

His message to the local leaders: Keep it up. If you keep telling us what you want, we’ll try to help you get there.

Mr. Steudle outline the greatest challenges his department faces: a grim funding situation and the constant uncertainty from Washington.

He ended on a lighter note, by talking about the high-tech methods for maintaining our bridges, then showed a video that was sure to please – a train going 110 through Kalamazoo.

Overall, he made it clear that despite the enormous funding challenges, his department prefers to invest where there’s clear agreement on priorities, rather than disagreement. Moreover, he sees the Grand Vision as a statewide model for how to develop those regional priorities.

Several projects were discussed, including:

  • Buckley’s new sidewalks, streetlamps, bike lanes, and transit transfer center that connect bus riders from Wexford County to Traverse City;
  • The new Silver Drive entrance to the Grand Traverse Commons in Traverse City;
  • New signs on the Beitner/Keystone/Hammond area that shows travelers how to get to destinations around the region;
  • A new Access Management project launched by Traverse Area Land Use Study (TC-TALUS) that may reduce conflicts on the area’s busiest roads;
  • A federal Sustainable Communities Grant that was awarded to the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, which will result in a Regional Transportation and Sustainability Plan;
  • A study in Traverse City that will attempt to improve the area around streets that have seen disinvestment over the past few years;
  • A street design process in Suttons Bay that could make it more attractive and pedestrian friendly;
  • And, new regional bus connections planned for both Acme and Interlochen that would create connections between BATA and Benzie Bus, Kalkaska Public Transit Authority and Antrim County Transit.

Later that day, Mr. Steudle met with Traverse City staff and citizens to have a very productive discussion about the ever-decisive issue of Division Street. (We’ll be writing more about that later.)

Mr. Steudle’s visit to Northern Michigan made it clear the region is high on the radar of the state’s top transportation official.

He was here to listen, and to help this region realize its Vision.