MARQUETTE - Marquette Township officials are hoping a traffic study related to a business-dominated stretch of U.S. 41 will result in additional traffic signals and increased safety.
The focus of the study is access to the U.S. 41 corridor from Brickyard Road, in light of new commercial development. Brickyard runs perpendicular to the highway along the west edge of the parking lot for the recently opened PetSmart and T.J. Maxx stores.
If the collected data indicates a need for traffic controls near Brickyard, the Michigan Department of Transportation will be notified.
The intersection of Brickyard Road and U.S. 41 is seen Wednesday evening, not long after a traffic crash in the vicinity injured three people. The results from a traffic study may lead to changes to help improve traffic flow and safety in the area. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"We believe that it will reach that level," Township Manager Randy Girard said. "With Lowe's there and the addition of T.J. Maxx, PetSmart and some subsequent developments in that area, (we believe) traffic will reach a level that will justify the placement of a traffic control device at that intersection."
The study - commissioned by the developer for the most recent commercial additions - will not have an immediate impact, and Girard said he doesn't know when it will conclude.
The developer could not be reached for comment.
Around the time Lowe's opened in late 2008, a traffic study was conducted by that property's developer, according to Andy Sikkema, the manager of MDOT's Ishpeming Transportation Service Center.
"The conclusion was that, at that time, a signal wasn't warranted," Sikkema said.
When deciding whether to institute traffic controls, Sikkema said MDOT considers "the traffic volumes on the highway and the traffic volumes that would be approaching the highway from the driveway."
Sikkema said he is aware there is some concern about safety
issues along that stretch of U.S. 41, but said that as development in the area increases, MDOT routinely surveys traffic patterns.
"At this time, we've looked at Brickyard Road. There is not a lot of traffic coming to that intersection yet, but we continue to keep an eye on and review that intersection," he said.
He said MDOT annually compiles lists of locations with unusually high numbers of traffic crashes. The list is then used, in part, to inform applications for state safety funds.
"Marquette Township has never shown up on that list, on a statewide or a local basis," Sikkema said.
As it's not clear whether a new U.S. 41 traffic light is in the future, the township is considering other alternatives to increase safety in a corridor that is home to a growing number of commercial businesses, as well as highly visible traffic accidents.
"They would like to see access be provided other than by having to use the highway," Township Planner Jason McCarthy said of residents. "That doesn't happen overnight."
The best way to achieve that goal, he said, is to work toward the construction of a parallel rear-access road to the north of the highway, behind the existing businesses.
That process could take some time, according to McCarthy, who called the corridor "an area of concern." Creation of an access road would involve public-private partnerships with private property owners and will require major foresight for the future development of the land in the area.
"What really needs to happen is for us to work together with the property owners and their plans," McCarthy said. "It is, from what I understand, a common goal for everyone involved."
It is unlikely, he said, that plans for a prospective access road - running east-west from Marquette County Road HQ to Brickyard - would be laid out within a year.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.