Township to use crowdfunding site for proposed underpass

Marquette Township Planning and Zoning Administrator Jason McCarthy provides an update to the Marquette Township Board about the proposed U.S. 41 underpass project. McCarthy has spearheaded several efforts to raise matching funds for state and federal grant dollars, including crowd-funding on the gofundme website. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

MARQUETTE — Marquette Township has received conditional funding to build an underpass beneath U.S. 41 and is seeking help from the public to build what officials are calling a safer way for pedestrians, cyclists and snowmobilers to cross the busy highway corridor.

The township is attempting to raise $10,000 on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe.com by Oct. 1 for the $75,000 match for the project — which would consist of a multi-use tunnel under U.S. 41 and a 10-foot-wide shared-use pathway from the Iron Ore Heritage Trail to Marquette County Road 492, Marquette Township Planner and Zoning Administrator Jason McCarthy said.

McCarthy said several organizations have stepped up to make donations to the project, including a $10,000 donation from the Noquemenon Trail Network, a $15,000 donation from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and $1,000 from the Superior Snowmobile Club.

“We also have some potential big donors that would benefit from the underpass to help us make the $75,000 match,” McCarthy said.

Funds generated by the GoFundMe campaign will be added to the other contributions and used as matching funds for two grant applications that have been filed with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Michigan Department of Transportation, McCarthy said.

The township has been granted $2.4 million in conditional funding to be used on the project, McCarthy said.

The total cost of construction will be near $2.25 million, according to an MDOT grant summary dated Aug. 21.

The federal Transportation Alternatives Program, or TAP, is expected to provide about $1.35 million in funding, while roughly $450,000 will come from MDOT, $272,000 will be provided by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, with Marquette Township responsible for nearly $178,000 in matching funds for the project, the summary states.

“If we get the funding in place by Oct. 1 for the (MNRTF) grant, we would have additional time to come up with the match for the TAP grant application,” McCarthy said. “How long that is, I don’t know; I estimate about a year. If that’s the case, we would have to go for some pretty large funding sources, but it is possible.”

The project will be paired with a proposed MDOT road reconstruction project in 2019, which includes two roundabouts on U.S. 41, one near Brickyard Road and one at the Target and Walmart intersection, or Marquette County Road HQ.

If successfully funded, the box-culvert underpass would be constructed just east of the Menards store, with trails connecting to the Iron Ore Heritage Trail and to other existing trail networks, in phases, McCarthy said.

“Residents and visitors of Marquette County will benefit from having a safe connection under U.S. 41 in Marquette Township in order to link up with our community’s 100-plus miles of motorized and non-motorized trails. This helps our local economy,” McCarthy said in the GoFundMe request.

Easements from the surrounding property owners have almost all been successfully obtained, McCarthy said.

The tunnel will improve safety, the MDOT grant summary states, by allowing cyclists, pedestrians and snowmobilers a separated-grade crossing of the highway corridor.

An estimated average of 30,000 vehicles per day currently travel U.S. 41 in that area, the summary states.

McCarthy said the underpass, if funded, represents the first phase toward connecting to a previously funded Safe Routes to School project at North Star Academy, located north of the highway corridor.

“We did amend the scope of the project as well to eventually connect to North Star Academy, therefore gaining more users, which makes the project more competitive,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said he hopes the general public will see how the project will benefit the township as well as the general public in the long term.

“I do feel that it’s a great project; a legacy project; it’s something that the DNR wants to see and MDOT wants to see. Everybody’s working very well together to make it happen,” McCarthy said. “What I am really after — people don’t want to give money to the government for no reason, but if there are enough organizations and user-groups, if each of them put a little bit toward the project, we will be able to do it.”

Those who would like more information, or who wish to donate funds to the underpass project, can visit the gofundme website at www.gofundme.com.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.