Underpass debate drives attendance in township sessions

Local municipal meetings aren’t always packed.

In fact, they usually aren’t packed.

Residents sometimes can watch those meetings on TV, or read about them in The Mining Journal, but they don’t always attend them in person for various reasons: lack of interest in the subject matter, prior commitments, etc.

It was good to see the community’s involvement at a Dec. 5 Marquette Township Board meeting.

The topic was a proposed $2.5 million non-motorized underpass tunnel on U.S. 41, which would provide passage beneath five lanes of the highway, increase pedestrian safety and connectivity, and be a boost to the region’s economy and recreational opportunities.

About $2.4 million in conditional funding is available for the project, with fundraising efforts bringing about $80,000 in private donations so far.

Many people who attended the Dec. 5 meeting lamented the lack of safe areas for pedestrians, bicyclists and snowmobilers to cross the busy highway.

As most people know, walking, bicycling and snowmobiling are popular Upper Peninsula pursuits.

Terry Gottlieb, city of Marquette resident and president of the Noquemanon Trail Network, said the NTN pledged $10,000 for the project, noting the underpass would be good for local recreationists and safer for motorists driving over the underpass as well.

The show of support for the project impressed board Trustee Dave Wiegand. He said that judging from the number of people who said they’re behind the project, it indicated to him the underpass can be finished at no cost to Marquette Township.

Completing such an undertaking with so many benefits and not dipping into taxpayer dollars sounds like a good deal to us.

The township has a year to collect the remaining $125,000 for the underpass. If community support continues, we are confident that goal can be reached.

And people getting involved in local government undoubtedly will have contributed to that goal.