Long-term corridor planning approved

Construction on U.S. 41 near Marquette County Road 492 is pictured. The Marquette Township Board approved planning for potential future lighting and pedestrian safety improvements to correspond with a Michigan Department of Transportation project in 2021. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

MARQUETTE — Marquette Township officials are hoping to partner with local, state and federal agencies to make the eastern portion of its U.S. 41 corridor safer for drivers and pedestrians alike.

The Marquette Township Board voted unanimously on Sept. 3 to allow staff to work with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program for possible grant funding to coincide with an $8 million Michigan Department of Transportation project in 2021.

MDOT plans to resurface 3.31 miles of U.S. 41 from the Wright Street intersection traveling east to the Front Street roundabout in the city of Marquette.

The Downtown Development Authority began to levy 1 mill in property taxes in its tax increment financing district for up to three years to improve lighting and add pedestrian crossings on U.S. 41 from the Wright Street intersection to Brookton Road.

“We have been talking with the township business association and talking about these things that we want to improve such as lighting, pedestrian access, better access to the businesses, and safer access to the businesses along that stretch and aesthetic improvements to the corridor itself,” Marquette Township Planning and Zoning Administrator Jason McCarthy told board members during the meeting.

Grant funds may also be available from MDOT’s Traffic Alternatives Program, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund Development Grant Program, and the Marquette Township Business Association.

McCarthy said long-range planning is important, as partnerships with other government entities.

“We’ve formed some wonderful relationships with local and state regulatory agencies. If we keep the momentum going and demonstrate that we are continuing to work on this plan, I think that we are going to be successful,” McCarthy said.

A successful partnership with the program in 2016 led SRTS administrators contact the township about future projects, he said.

“They reached out to us to see if we had any new projects that we might be interested in working with the school and safe routes to school on,” McCarthy said. “Immediately, wheels started turning and I thought of a project that we might be able to piggy-back onto the 2021 MDOT project, which will be east of the Walmart intersection, way out to Front Street in a road resurfacing project.”

Many board members spoke in support of planning efforts, although some mentioned the need to procure the proper equipment along with a better understanding of maintenance costs.

“I would support the board’s green light to go ahead with this in the planning stage,” Township Board Trustee David Weigand said. “But in addition to that, we have enough experience with maintaining the safe routes to school that we have that we should be able to tack some dollars on that. It breaks down per foot. We should be able to come up with some sort of ballpark. And certainly, it’s not going to be concrete, but some kind of a ball park on what it costs to maintain what we have because we’ve got the history and what it’s going to take to add this piece to it.”

McCarthy said the amount of state, federal and private funds for projects in the township in recent years is significant, including the $10.9 million project currently underway to construct two roundabouts, one at the Brickyard Road intersection and a second at the intersection of County Road 492, and a multi-use underpass tunnel.

“The amount of funding that has been injected into our community in recent years, from both private and public investment is noteworthy and the scale of investment is noteworthy and the scale of investment being made from (MDOT) typically occurs once in a generation,” McCarthy said.

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