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Thriving Communities / News & Views / Five Ways to Beat Traffic in TC: Upgrade Keystone and Beitner Roads

Five Ways to Beat Traffic in TC: Upgrade Keystone and Beitner Roads

Cross-town travelers can use existing bypass

Local Motion | January 30, 2014 | By James Bruckbauer

About the Author

James Bruckbauer is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s transportation policy specialist. Follow him on Twitter at @jimbruckb. Reach him at james@mlui.org.

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Traverse City has a bypass that could help travelers and delivery trucks skip busy in-town roads.

There’s a way for many summer travelers and busy delivery trucks to bypass Traverse City if they want to avoid the area’s busiest roads like Division, Grandview Parkway, and S. Airport Road. It’s a bypass that connects Chums Corner with the east side of Traverse City using Keystone and Beitner Roads.  

But, right now it’s two-lane road with steep slopes and very small bridges over the Boardman River, which don’t meet today’s standards for handling lots of traffic and heavy trucks. In order to carry more traffic, including large trucks, the road must be widened and the slopes must be reconstructed so that they’re less steep.

Could it replace Division and Grandview Parkway as the region’s “state trunkline?” and divert heavy traffic out of the city? That’s probably not happening anytime soon, according to MDOT.

MDOT staff has assured me that moving state highways is a highly complex process, requires a tremendous amount of public process, and thorough analysis. Plus, the recent funding announcement for a Division Street study reflects MDOT’s clear commitment to keeping the highway in town.

So, for now, the responsibility for upgrading the road lies at the local level with the Grand Traverse County Road Commission, who, in 2009 began working on the Keystone and Beitner bypass by connecting Keystone Road with Hammond Road.

Right now, the region’s transportation planning body, TC-TALUS, is creating regional transportation plan that includes a focused cost/benefit review of east-west options, including upgrades to Beitner.  Their analysis and recommendation will help the road commission decide if continuing the project is an effort worth pursing.

We think it is. Upgrading Keystone and Bietner Roads is a sensible way to provide some short-term relief to some of the heavy traffic along S. Airport and Grandview Parkway, without building a new expensive bridge across the Boardman River.

And it’s just one part of a set of strategies to reduce congestion in the Traverse City area, including improving DivisionGrandview Parkway, and South Airport roads, and managing the demand for driving

James Bruckbauer is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s transportation policy specialist. Follow him on Twitter at @jimbruckb. Reach him at james@mlui.org.


3787 days ago, 10:11am | by John Schluter | Report Comment

It would help with the boat and RV traffic during the summer to upgrade HWY 31 from Chums corner to Interlochen. One trailer can slow the road from 55 MPH to 35 MPH with no real chance of passing. Upgrading Keystone is a world class idea!

3766 days ago, 12:59pm | by Ken Smith | Report Comment

The cost to upgrade a road that runs along the natural river would be outrageous and an environmental disaster. It would clearly make more sense to work in the urban boundary.

3766 days ago, 2:06pm | by James Bruckbauer | Report Comment

Hi Ken,

Thanks for the comment. \

To my knowledge, the Grand Traverse Road Commission does not have a cost estimate for upgrading the road (even though the project has been recommended since 2001).

As part of its long-range plan, TC-TALUS is expected to look into the cost of upgrading the road. That is scheduled to be completed later this year.


3759 days ago, 10:31am | by Ken Smith | Report Comment

If you agree that it would be environmentally irresponsible to up grade along and over the natural river, the river and it's waters are just not important to you?

3759 days ago, 2:12pm | by James Bruckbauer | Report Comment

Thanks, again, for the comment, Ken. But it’s unclear to me what it is you’re asking with that question.

It really depends on the details of a particular project whether it would be environmentally irresponsible to upgrade along and over the natural river. Is the river important to me? Absolutely. I also understand that we must balance environmental impact with economic growth.

3758 days ago, 4:06pm | by Ken Smith | Report Comment

I am sorry, I should have been more specific. Upgrading Beitner is what I am concerned with. How do you plan to upgrade along and over the Boardman? Do you know the area?

3756 days ago, 9:53am | by James Bruckbauer | Report Comment

Ken, I do know the area. It would be a Grand Traverse County Road Commission project. And, as with most road expansion upgrades, the project would require a detailed environmental review.

3756 days ago, 1:54pm | by Ken Smith | Report Comment

So you don't know how the upgrade would be accomplished? Thanks for the information, I will ask the road commission.

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