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Report: Useful Alternatives to the Petoskey Bypass

Modernize local roads, develop new express route

February 1, 1999 | By Kelly Thayer
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

In Phase Three, New Alternatives will compare the performance of the proposed alternatives with the performance of the planned Petoskey Bypass. The evaluation will include a rigorous and comprehensive review of the competing proposals’ effects on land use, the environment, the local economy, municipal costs, local taxes, and the level of improvement in the regional transportation system.

Phase Four of the project will include presentations by New Alternatives and Institute staff to the community and local governments, and is scheduled to occur immediately after Phase Three is completed.

The Michigan Department of Transportation wants to build a $70 million, 9.5 mile-long bypass outside of Petoskey. The current proposal is to construct a two-lane highway using a 300-foot wide right-of-way and widen the highway to four lanes when traffic increases. The state is studying a bypass route that would leave US-31 near Bay Harbor and swing east through Resort and Bear Creek townships before heading north and rejoining US-31 just east of M-119.

Many residents are concerned that the bypass would invite more sprawling development, weaken downtown businesses, and ruin farms and wetlands. Moreover, the new highway is likely to increase traffic congestion because more people will drive more cars to destinations spread farther apart.

Residents are concerned that the proposed Petoskey Bypass would:

• Degrade rural valleys, farms, and scenic views. In a countywide survey, the vast majority of residents said the preservation of these features was "extremely important."

• Ruin a historic agricultural district that produces $10 million in farm products every year, carve up open space, and harm two world-class trout streams.

• Increase safety hazards for farmers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

• Cause pollutants from road construction and development to run off into freshwater marshes in the Bear River and Tannery Creek watersheds, which empty into Lake Michigan.

• Aggravate congestion at intersections the bypass will cross, including US-31, M-119, Manvel Road, and Pickerel Lake Road.

The success of the Petoskey Alternative Transportation and Land Use Project is based entirely on the courage of residents and elected leaders to support a reasoned alternative to conventional thinking about moving people and goods. If Petoskey builds a high-speed bypass, as so many other once-beautiful American communities have done, the result will be unsightly sprawl, a degraded landscape, and a deteriorated quality of life.

Petoskey area residents need to ask themselves: Fifty years from now, will your grandchildren really applaud a decision to build a new highway that opened the countryside to sprawling development? Or will they thank you for protecting the community and the land that you hold dear?

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