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Top 10 Flaws of Petoskey Bypass

Big crowd attends latest MDOT hearing

December 21, 2001 | By Kelly Thayer
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

  A citizen-supported local roads alternative to ease congestion helps protect landscapes like this.
More than 500 residents turned out on Dec. 5, 2001 to attend the Michigan Department of Transportation's hearing on the proposed $90 million Petoskey bypass. The crowd overwhelmingly opposed the state’s proposal to carve up the countryside of southern Emmet County with a 4-lane highway and plant sprawl where active farms prosper today. MDOT is taking public comment on the bypass proposal until Feb. 28, 2002. Read the Institute's list of Top 10 Flaws in MDOT's bypass study and Top 10 Strengths of the Institute's citizen-supported alternative, called "Smart Roads: Petoskey." Check out the Smart Roads: Petoskey plan here-->here.

A citizen-supported local roads alternative to ease congestion helps protect landscapes like this.

For more information on the Institute’s work in Petoskey to develop an alternative to the proposed 4-lane bypass, check out thePetoskey bypass-->Petoskey bypass section of our Web site or contact Transportation Project Coordinator Kelly Thayer at kelly@mlui.org. To support the Institute’s statewide efforts to promote smart growth, become a member by calling 231-882-4723 or joining online at www.mlui.org.

10 Flaws of the Petoskey Bypass Proposal

Ten flaws in the Michigan Department of Transportation’s $4 million bypass study

1. Fails to Solve U.S. 31 Traffic Problem. MDOT’s study shows that a 4-lane bypass would fail to solve traffic congestion on U.S. 31 through Petoskey. The level of traffic congestion on a road is measured using a scale from "A" to "F," just like letter grades in school. The study’s goal is to achieve at least a "C" grade along U.S. 31. After the bypass is built, the study shows that traffic flow in key locations on U.S. 31 would be rated with several failing grades, including a "D," two "E"s, and two "F"s.

2. Looks Like Interstate–75. In Bear Creek Township, MDOT proposes to build the eastern portion of the bypass using 4 lanes, a 60-foot grass median to separate traffic, and a right-of-way as wide as the length of a football field. The only other highway like this in all of northern Michigan is Interstate-75. The bypass is needlessly large. The study shows that most traffic now using U.S. 31 will not use the bypass.

3. Threatens Downtown, Ruins Rural Character. The bypass would promote commercial development along the new highway and at each of its 13 intersections with local roads. Cadillac provides a clear example of how this happens. Even before a bypass was completed there in 2001, Meijer, a Ruby Tuesday restaurant, Home Depot, Office Max, ABC Warehouse, and MC Sporting Goods spread out along the route. This type of sprawl would weaken downtown Petoskey and conflict with the growth plans of Resort and Bear Creek townships.

4. Wastes Time & Taxpayer Money. The bypass would not open for at least 10 years and would cost up to $90 million – all to save motorists just 90 seconds on U.S. 31 during the summer tourist season. In addition, because the bypass would knock down 34 homes and businesses, it would reduce property taxes paid to local governments by $80,000 to $90,000 annually.

5. Violates Obligation to Study Local Roads, Protect Land. The bypass study shows that so far MDOT isn’t listening to the law or local people. A full 64 percent of Resort Township residents oppose the MDOT beltway, according to a recent government survey. In 1998, the city of Petoskey and Bear Creek and Resort townships signed an agreement asking MDOT to study a two-lane highway — not a 4-lane bypass — and to develop a plan to protect farms and open space. In 1996, U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak moved legislation through Congress to allow MDOT to consider upgrading "existing local roads" instead of building a bypass.

6. Ignores Public Support for Smart Roads: Petoskey. MDOT disregards significant public support for Smart Roads: Petoskey, an alternative created through a partnership of local residents, the Michigan Land Use Institute, and an expert transportation planner. Resort Township, the city of Harbor Springs, and several homeowner groups have called for the state to evaluate Smart Roads. In response, MDOT dismissed the alternative with just a few paragraphs of criticism in its study. Federal law requires MDOT to consider all good ideas and to improve and even combine alternatives.

7. Devours Farmland, Knocks Down Homes. The bypass would pave 110 acres of active farmland, harm another 290 acres of prime agricultural land, and topple three farmhouses and their outbuildings. In addition, the bypass would landlock up to 200 acres of other land, making it inaccessible from any roads. The bypass also would knock down 32 homes and three businesses.

8. Destroys Vital Wetlands and Wildlife Habitat. The bypass would send heavy traffic across seven streams and rivers and destroy up to 24 acres of wetlands, including rare cedar swamp that cannot be "re-created" elsewhere. Wetlands support wildlife, help prevent flooding, and keep Emmet County’s waterways clean and clear by filtering pollution. The bypass also would mow down 54 acres of forest and degrade scenic views across the southern portion of the county.

9. Undermines the Area’s Cultural Heritage. The bypass would pave over and carve up farms that have helped to define Emmet County since it was founded almost 150 years ago. The farms and landscape in southern Emmet County are nationally significant for developing a type of potato that fed many Americans during World War II. One farm that would be divided by the bypass is eligible for recognition on the National Register of Historic Places.

10. Relies on Computers to Think Like People. The study’s flawed computer traffic modeling discounts the benefits of linking local roads and protecting land along the new roadway. Keeping nearby land free of major new development will allow traffic to flow more quickly and easily on a new road. MDOT’s computer, however, always chooses huge construction projects — like the proposed bypass — and rejects simpler, faster, and cheaper options like fixing U.S. 31, connecting local roads, and preserving open space.

10 Strengths of Smart Roads: Petoskey

Ten strengths of the citizen-led plan to relieve congestion and protect the landscape

1. Eases Traffic on U.S. 31 and Local Roads. Smart Roads proposes to upgrade U.S. 31, link 2-lane local roads to create an express route and truck route, and protect land along the route. The traffic signals and many intersections on U.S. 31 are outdated and function poorly. Local roads in Resort and Bear Creek townships don’t allow traffic to move east-west across Emmet County. Fixing these problems — instead of building a bypass — would get traffic moving and preserve the countryside.

2. Fits the Landscape Better than a Bypass. Smart Roads would connect 2-lane local roads to create an east-west express route around Petoskey. A 2-lane road is consistent with the size and scale of northern Michigan’s other highways, including U.S. 31. The express route would be less than one-third as wide as the right-of-way for the proposed bypass. The narrower width would allow the road to fit the landscape while still providing congestion relief similar to that offered by the bypass.

3. Preserves Rural Character in Emmet County. Smart Roads would help stop sprawling development from spreading across Resort and Bear Creek townships. Smart Roads proposes new ways to protect farms, homes, and scenic views along any new road. This is essential because commercial growth will follow the traffic and change the face of the rural landscape. In a recent government survey, 62 percent of Resort Township residents said they "strongly agree" with the need to preserve rural character in Emmet County.

4. Saves Time & Taxpayer Money. Smart Roads builds on the investment taxpayers have already made in the existing state and local road system, rather than creating a new 4-lane bypass. As a result of this conservative approach, residents get more for their money, and they get fast relief. Smart Roads would cost only about 10 percent of the price tag for the bypass, and some of the cost savings could be used to protect farms and open space along the corridor. And Smart Roads could be open for traffic in just a few years, compared to a decade for the bypass.

5. Uses Innovative Ideas. When roads become congested, the state usually proposes building a new one. Smart Roads is innovative because it focuses on fixing the existing roads — U.S. 31 and local roads — and preserving the adjoining landscape. This approach is consistent with what local governments and residents want. Both a 1998 agreement among local governments and 1996 federal legislation by U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak promote 2-lane roads and preserving farms and scenic views. A recent government survey found that 44 percent of Resort Township residents support "improving local roads" as the best solution, which is more than double the level of support for any other option.

6. Satisfies the Public. Resort Township; the city of Harbor Springs; the Emmet County Lakeshore Association; and the homeowners associations of the Wequetonsing Association, the L’Arbre Croche Club, and the Menonaqua Beach Cottage Owners Association have passed resolutions calling for the state to study Smart Roads: Petoskey. This citizen-led alternative enjoys strong public support because it was created through a partnership of local residents, the Michigan Land Use Institute, and an expert transportation planner.

7. Preserves Farmland, Homes, and Businesses. Smart Roads was designed to fit the rural landscape and avoid carving up farms, knocking down homes and businesses, and spoiling the environment. Because it relies on local roads, Smart Roads would minimize harm to the farm and tourist economies.

8. Protects Wetlands and Wildlife Habitat. Rolling hills and clear rivers and streams define southern Emmet County. Smart Roads seeks to protect the area’s wetlands, waterways, and wild places. Farmers, outdoor enthusiasts, and tourists all depend on open lands and a clean environment, and so does wildlife. Smart Roads provides a traffic solution that keeps the Petoskey area a prime place to visit and call home.

9. Respects the Area’s Cultural Heritage. Residents have spent nearly 150 years making Emmet County a special place to live. Raising potatoes and other vegetables has defined the culture and the landscape for generations. And farmers have helped to keep the land open and relatively free of development. Smart Roads is a modern approach to solving traffic problems that respects the region’s heritage and appreciation for a rural lifestyle.

10. Relies on People to Decide What’s Best. Smart Roads is all about respecting people and their quality of life. Residents attended several meetings and workshops to help create Smart Roads. The Michigan Land Use Institute raised money locally and hired an expert transportation planner to turn local ideas into a feasible plan. Solving the Petoskey area’s traffic problem is about more than building a new highway. It’s about building a better community for today and tomorrow.

Presented December 5, 2001, by the Michigan Land Use Institute and the Environmental Law & Policy Center. To learn more about Smart Roads: Petoskey, contact the Institute at 231-882-4723 or on the Internet at www.mlui.org. ELPC can be reached at 312-795-3731 or www.elpc.org.

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