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Streets Should Connect, Not Divide

Vote Yes for a Safer Division Street

Choices | October 4, 2012 | 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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Speeding cars on Division Street have buried the city’s character, safety, and sense of place, and the street separates families from our trails, businesses, our hospital, and the growing neighborhood on our city's west side. 

On November 6, Traverse City voters will have a chance to take a crucial next step on one of the most important transportation challenges facing our city: Division Street.

Almost everyone who lives here agrees: Division Street needs to get better. Its speeding cars have buried the city’s character, safety, and sense of place.  Its intersections are the most dangerous of any other street in town. And it separates families from our trails, businesses, our hospital, and the growing neighborhood on our city’s west side.

Recognizing this, Traverse City commissioners made a commitment last spring to make the road safer, starting with some short-term, lower-cost solutions like speed radar signs and better sidewalks.

At the same time, they pledged to jump-start the long-term planning and design process for changes that could dramatically improve traffic flow, make the street safer for families, and reconnect our city’s east and west side.

To begin the long-term process, though, Traverse City voters first need to assure the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the agency that manages the road, that they’re not wasting valuable time and resources if they start planning and reviewing options for making big improvements.

So on November 6, Traverse City voters will be asked if they would allow MDOT to include less than two acres of city-owned land when they propose any new road designs.

Even though the ballot question makes it sound like we’re “disposing of parkland” on the spot, don’t worry. When you vote “yes,” you won’t be giving up one inch of parkland. This only starts the process and only makes the land available for planning. It will take many years, many studies, many tests, and many, many public forums, before any new plans or designs are proposed. Not only that, future commissioners will have to approve any proposed design.

This is simply the next step in a long-term process that could start one of the most effective community-driven planning processes to date. What's even better is that this step won't cost taxpayers a dime.

And throughout the process, you’re voice will be heard. The state recently adopted a “complete streets” policy that says that the transportation agency must make sure they’re getting lots of input from citizens.

I believe that this community can work collaboratively with the Michigan Department of Transportation to design a street that meets the community’s values and goals.

I believe that we can design a road that increases the flow of traffic and at the same time can become safer for people to cross.

If we reject this proposal, we delay significant improvements to Division for many more years.

Therefore I encourage you to vote yes for a safer Division Street.





4208 days ago, 2:21pm | by Greg | Report Comment

I will vote NO, a yes vote could mean roundabouts.

4208 days ago, 4:35pm | by Valerie | Report Comment

What's so wrong with roundabouts? They keep the flow of traffice moving, at a slower speed, and increase fuel mileage versus a traffic light. With the light at 14th being so close, another light at 11th is not feasible. Europe has been dealing with traffic congestion far longer than us, so isn't it time we start adopting some of their proven traffic efficiences?

4208 days ago, 4:42pm | by Tricia | Report Comment

the article points out that public input will certainly be a valuable & integral part of the planning process if voters vote YES on this November's ballot. When the time comes to voice your opinion about 'no roundabouts' you will have that chance, but if you vote NO you will literally be slamming the door to improvements on a street that simply NEEDS to be safer. The point this article is trying to make is not to be worried about determining the exact solution for a safer Division by this November, but rather simply agree it needs to be safer and by voting yes, I'll be saying just that.

4207 days ago, 9:09pm | by Max | Report Comment

this taking of park land for potential roundabvouts and expansion of lanes is ridiculous! VOTE NO.!!! What a great way to farce traffic down the neighborhioid streets.

Division is a Ste and Federal Highway thru Traverse City. You will need federal approval as well. Not likely!. And MDOT will do what ever the local towns want then sit back and lugh like they do down south of Brighton with the nasty roundabout right off the expressway! In Corning, New York they are taking out the roundabouts. the citizens are tired of the accidents and commerce traffic not being able to negotiate and bring them good and services. The city street plows and crews spent extra time and money fixing them each spring. Stop this Grand vision social engineering by the outsiders that want us to live they want us to.

Vote NO On this silly mis-use of the public trust..oh yea, the city commission wants you to vote yes but they don;t have a plan! But want us to "trust them" no way Vote NO!

4207 days ago, 9:35pm | by James Bruckbauer | Report Comment

Thanks for the comment, Max. To clarify, no park land will be taken with a "yes" vote.

Here's another way to look at this issue: We will see more and more accidents, injuries, and pedestrian deaths on Division. At some point Traverse City residents will get fed up and demand that MDOT do something significant to the road. So, this whole process will happen sometime. We can be proactive and start the process now or start it later. It's up to us.

The city commission is not asking for your trust on this issue. In fact, they have made it clear that they will not be in office when any design and planning work will completed. This is true. Designs, plans, environmental reviews, and public input is many years away.

4207 days ago, 10:11am | by Jeff Taborn | Report Comment

The process starts when the city presents the residents with a "plan". Not a promise to trust to do something good in the future. I have to agree with Max and Greg. A veiled attempt to bring roundabouts to this road is what's in store. No thank you..Look at how stupid they are on Webster Street.
Snow plows beat them up every year, terrible to negotiate. Etc...
Put in tunnels for pedestrians. 4 of them..simple and easy to do. As noted by Max.. Division Street is a state and federal roadway. Good luck there. VOTE NO! Do the by pass routes.. go tot he city planner and ask why they are not being shown to the public. They have been around for 30 years!

Voting no here.

4205 days ago, 10:37pm | by Vern | Report Comment

A No vote is resigning ourselves at least to another 10-15 years of a terrible street: more crashes, more injuries, more deaths. I have been asking questions about this, and I trust it all enough to try. I don't want to be frozen by fear or ignorance, but motivated by the simple hope we can fix a crummy street. The city commission did not write the design process-- it is an imperfect process involving MDOT. But there are several years of public input, checks and balances before anything is designed, and several more years before anything is approved for construction. We have final local control. We need to design a street for our children and grandchildren, and we cannot kick the problem 'down the road.' That's why I will vote Yes.

4204 days ago, 4:19pm | by James Bruckbauer | Report Comment


Thanks for the comment. The city will not present a plan because, like you mentioned, Division a state-owned and state-managed road.

Before the state will spend resources planning for significant improvements to the road, they are asking if they can be more flexible in their planning and include more land as they plan. That's all.

If it was a veiled attempt at installing roundabouts, then the state would only ask for land at the corner of Division and 11th Street. They would not need the additional land that's being requested.

4203 days ago, 1:07pm | by Elizabeth | Report Comment

Laying the groundwork to implement "solutions" that will allow Division to accommodate greater traffic volume will never result in safer streets. The slower & more stifled traffic along there is - while of course exasperating drivers - the safer it will be. TC should rather be investing its energy in a fight (with MDOT, etc) to install at least two more stoplights - perhaps with turn arrows - on the stretch between 14th & Front and another between Front & the Bay. Then, find ANOTHER street or two enhance to cope with added volume (Elmwood from Silver Lake to 11th??): while plenty of neighbors will be unhappy, added connections and traffic calming are the solution IF safety is the objective. And if - instead - the ability to zip along Division from Front to 14th smoothly is the objective, then by all means, widen & litter the thing with roundabouts. Two such objectives ARE mutually exclusive. I do admire everyone's good intentions - just hope the fuzzy logic of some traffic engineers isn't clouding the vision of the biking/walking/urbanism advocates.

4201 days ago, 9:07pm | by Stuart | Report Comment

On roundabouts, I agree that they can deal with traffic well but also agree with Elizabeth that they might not handle the walker/biker issue too well. I initially thought a light at 11th would be good considering existing and growing interest in the Commons, but wonder if Valerie or another could expand on why it's not feasible. It's close to 14th, but I imagine the right algorithm or whathaveyou could handle flow well? At the light, there could be opportunity for a crosswalk button that actually responds when pressed, allowing for a few extra seconds for folks to cross. Here you would indeed want left turn lanes, necessitating a slight "take" of adjacent parkland. If it enhances ability to enter the park, would it be worth it?

And this might be silly, but I'm reminded of a "story" where a small town has a "speed enforced by radar" sign as one approaches. The tourist asks a clerk how they can afford that to which he replies "Oh, it wasn't too bad...the sign cost $35 dollars." Now there's a catch-22 here: traffic coming down Division means potential tourist revenue, but some also just see it as a thruway for travels north (semis, etc). Could a sign before Airport road say "For scenic Traverse City, continue on 31/Division; trucks or thru traffic please follow Airport road." to which they'd take a left on 3 Mile and continue north. Thoughts? Silly?

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