Will Traverse City Build Boardman Lake Avenue?

Will City Build Boardman Lake Avenue?

June 8, 2016
Will City Build Boardman Lake Avenue?

To build or not to build a road connecting Fourteenth Street to Eighth Street: That is the question.

It’s one city commissioners have long discussed – and could soon answer. Consulting firm LSL Planning presented three design options Tuesday for addressing traffic, encouraging economic development and improving placemaking in the West Boardman Lake District. The firm was hired last December to analyze growth scenarios in the neighborhood – including the feasibility of building a new east-west corridor, often referred to as Boardman Lake Avenue.

LSL Planning met multiple times with a stakeholder group of Boardman Lake residents and business owners to assess their needs and desires for the neighborhood. The firm also held public workshops this spring to gather community input. Using that feedback, LSL Planning presented three design options to the public and city planning commissioners Tuesday night.

Two of the proposed scenarios call for the construction of a new 24-foot-wide, two-lane road – which the firm called by the updated name South Boardman Drive – that would follow the curve of the railroad tracks and Boardman Lake to connect Fourteenth Street to Eighth Street (see above). Both South Boardman Drive scenarios – nearly identical except for differing exit points on Fourteenth Street – call for the road to empty onto Eighth Street just east of Lake Street.

To avoid neighboring exit conflict points on Eighth, the scenarios call for Lake Street to be converted into a service drive, with pedestrian and bicyclist access and on-street parking for businesses such as Oryana and McGough’s. The options also call for eventual new residential and commercial development along the corridor.

A separate, third scenario also focuses on turning Lake Street into a more pedestrian-friendly neighborhood drive, and implements traffic-calming measures on Cass Street. But it eliminates the construction of a new east-west road. “It maintains the neighborhood character, and allows for potential redevelopment,” says Robert Doyle of SmithGroupJJR, another member of the consulting team. “But it doesn’t really address any of the traffic congestion issues.”

The three options reflect the feedback of residents, whose opinions ranged from a desire for a high-speed bypass (a scenario that was collectively ruled out due to its negative impact on the neighborhood), to support for a calmer east-west option, to opposition to any new road for fear it would drive traffic into (not away from) the neighborhood.

“At every level, opinions are mixed,” says Planning Division Manager Bradley Strader of LSL Planning. “But there’s a concern about traffic issues from everybody.” Strader says analysis supports South Boardman Drive as an option that would “provide benefit to the city and businesses and neighborhoods. But it’s up to (the community) to decide if those benefits are worth the cost.”

To help city officials make that decision, LSL Planning will put together a detailed cost-benefit analysis for each scenario to present to the city commission by the end of June. Commissioners have stated their intention to use the analysis, as well as the Boardman Lake Trail and Eighth Street redesign plans, to make a decision once and for all whether to pursue an east-west corridor – or kill the concept.

Oryana General Manager Steve Nance, who has participated in the stakeholder meetings, says he’s reserving final judgment until he can review the cost-benefit analysis and details of each scenario. A new corridor “could affect us positively – but it could also affect us negatively,” he says. The road could bring heightened visibility to Oryana, divert traffic away from the quieter neighborhood streets around to the east side of the store, and open up more parking on Lake Street. But depending on its design, it could also hamper access to the store, potentially disrupting the flow of in-out traffic or creating a bottleneck for customers and delivery trucks, Nance says.

“There are ways (a design) could all come together,” he says. “We want to be in a position to support the best course of action.” Nance says he’s pleased to see the city nearing a resolution either way on the long-debated project. “When a business is trying to think about the future, something big like this raises a lot of question marks,” he says. “So it’s nice to be thinking in terms of a decision point.”

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