MARQUETTE - The Marquette City Commission will be seeking regional support Monday morning for the creation of a possible truck route bypassing the city.
The commission will host a joint work session at 8 a.m. Monday in order to discuss regional traffic management. The group has invited the Marquette County Board to the work session, as well as representatives from the Marquette Township Board and the Marquette County Road Commission.
"One of our biggest goals is to work with all agencies involved," Marquette Mayor Johnny DePetro said. "We're looking down the road into 2014, 2015 budget sessions - even further."
Truck routes have been a common topic at city commission meetings in recent years, but the issue was raised most recently when mining company Rio Tinto announced it would move forward with plans to drive ore-filled trucks down city streets.
Company officials have stated that trucks transporting ore from the Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill will travel along Marquette County Road 550 and into the city. From there, the trucks will travel down Sugarloaf Avenue and onto Wright Street, before heading into Marquette Township and onto U.S. 41.
The final rejection of the proposed Marquette County Road 595 - which Rio Tinto was planning to use as a haul road - came in December, when the DEQ announced it would not issue a permit for the road, after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency refused to remove its objection.
City commissioners have voiced concerns ranging from increased infrastructure degradation to possible noise and safety issues. Marquette Township representatives, they have said, should share their concerns.
Marquette Township Supervisor Dennis Liimatta said he is also not pleased with the idea of heavy truck traffic driving through the township and turning west onto the busiest traffic corridor in the Upper Peninsula.
"Mixing in additional heavy commercial truck traffic is not the best idea from a safety standpoint or a moving traffic standpoint," said Liimatta, who added he is willing to discuss bypass options with city commissioners.
Those discussions will hinge largely on both a funding source and a location for any prospective bypass.
Liimatta said one proposal calls for a bypass through Forestville and ultimately out to the highway at the intersection with Brickyard Road.
That plan, Liimatta said, likely won't push truck traffic far enough west to help with congestion or safety issues that could occur in the township's commercial district.
"I can certainly see how it would be the best if I lived in the city and I could move the truck traffic out and it didn't come through my neighborhood," he said. "But really it's just pushing a problem into Marquette Township residents' neighborhoods and it clearly doesn't make any sense to me."
The future of any bypass, Liimatta said, will depend on a funding mechanism. Rio Tinto recently agreed to fund the upgrades and overhaul of its preferred route through the city. The city commission has not discussed funding a bypass, nor has the Marquette County Road Commission.
"The road commission doesn't have any money, just like we didn't have any money to build 595, just like we didn't have money to upgrade (existing roads)," road commission engineer-manager Jim Iwanicki said.
Additionally, Liimatta said he had no interest in approaching his constituents with a funding request.
"I think Marquette Township residents would be really hard-pressed to support any additional millage to create or put money toward (new) roads before we have roads in Trowbridge Park repaired, for example," he said.
Though members have been invited to Monday's meeting, the county board has distanced itself from the bypass discussions.
Chairman Gerry Corkin said last week that the county board would be supportive of any joint decisions made by the city and the township, but called it a "jurisdictional issue" and said his board doesn't "like to overstep our bounds."
At Tuesday's meeting, board member Steve Pence agreed.
"This is really not our responsibility," Pence said. "It just seems to me that the issues ought to be worked out in a neighborly fashion between Marquette Township and the city of Marquette before roads are proposed and possible funding is sought."
In previous discussions, the Marquette City Commission has identified a city haul route. In April of 2009, the body approved a resolution designating McClellan Avenue, from Fair Avenue to U.S. 41, as a truck route. The resolution stipulates that the McClellan Avenue extension, which was completed in 2012, will serve as a truck route from Fair Avenue to Wright Street.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org