December 1, 1999 | By Kelly Thayer
and Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service
MDOT began with two bypass routes -- the Near South and the Far South. They met stiff public resis- tance because one would involve major reconstruction of local roads and neighborhoods, and the other would carve up the countryside. CONTACTS: Rick Kuner, 708-386-6480; Bill Petzold, 616-347-6454; Al Foster, 616-347-0592; Kelly Thayer at the Institute, 616-882-4723 x13.
City and township officials then proposed to state transportation officials a third idea, the Intertown- South route, which is even farther away from Petoskey than the previous routes. State transportation officials cite these negotiations as evidence of local support. Some township officials, though, say they still would prefer improvements to the existing transportation system instead of a bypass.
"If they want to divert some traffic, there's other roads they could use -- for a heck of a lot less money -- without disrupting the townships," said Al Foster, a retired dairy farmer and supervisor of Bear Creek Township, who has led rural opposition to the bypass.
Area residents and Emmet County planning officials have proposed improving local roads to move some truck and other "through traffic" around Petoskey. But the state is set on a full-scale bypass, with a broad right-of-way and few hills or turns.
Meanwhile, the Bear Creek township board has formally endorsed the Institute's citizen-led initiative to develop alternatives to the bypass. "There are a lot of people, living in the townships and in the city, who don't think a bypass is the best way to handle a traffic problem," Mr. Foster said. "Bringing in someone like Mr. Kuner, with experience helping communities improve their whole transportation system, will help us find the answer."
• The "Near-South" route is nearest to Petoskey, and has been rejected by the city for being too close to its borders.
• The "Far-South" proposal runs farther out of Petoskey, between Sterzik and Intertown roads, and ends at M-119 and US-31. This route has been hotly opposed by Resort and Bear Creek township residents who are concerned about sprawl and farmland destruction. MDOT's "feasibility study" for the Far-South alignment already has been completed.
• The "Intertown-South" route extends even farther into Resort and Bear Creek townships. It runs south of Intertown Road and eventually ends on Manvel Road at US-31. Area residents note that the sprawl and farmland loss issues remain the same no matter what route the bypass takes around Petoskey.
MDOT will hold a public meeting in Petoskey later this winter to announce the results of its Intertown- South feasibility study, an evaluation of the route's effect on homes, wetlands, farmland, and historic structures.
Here is MDOT's projected timeline for moving ahead with the bypass.
Intertown-South route -- feasible:
• August or September 1999 -- MDOT holds public hearings to take comments on a supplemental environmental impact statement.
• July 2000 -- MDOT issues a final environmental impact statement, indicating the recommended bypass route: Intertown-South, Far-South, or a combination of the two routes.
• Late 2000 -- The Federal Highway Administration decides on the amount of funding to give the project.
• 2000-2002 -- MDOT uses two years for highway design work.
• 2003-2004 -- MDOT takes an additional two years for real estate acquisition.
• 2005 -- Earliest date for construction to begin.
Intertown-South route -- not feasible:
• June 1999 — The Far-South corridor would be chosen for the bypass and a final environmental impact statement would be issued, potentially speeding funding and construction by a full year compared to the Intertown-South route process.
CONTACTS: Rick Kuner, 708-386-6480; Bill Petzold, 616-347-6454; Al Foster, 616-347-0592; Kelly Thayer at the Institute, 616-882-4723 x13.