Lakeshore Boulevard relocation project has much promise

Lakeshore Boulevard stretches for miles along the Lake Superior shoreline in the city of Marquette, from south of Founders Landing and the Lower Harbor ore dock all the way north to Presque Isle and the city’s Upper Harbor.

It’s not uncommon for tourists and locals alike to be seen traveling the route by car, bike, blades or foot on a warm summer evening, when the beaches become dotted with swimsuits, towels and umbrellas. During the winter months, die-hard joggers can still get in a workout by running on the multiuse path that’s set alongside the lakeside roadway, as fat-tire bikers zip by.

But since late November, a good stretch of that roadway has been deemed off limits till springtime. City officials made the decision to close the portion of Lakeshore Boulevard between Hawley and Wright streets to through traffic until the spring thaw arrives.

The reasoning behind that decision, at least what’s been reported in the past, is that severe winter weather conditions — like strong winds and high waves coming off Lake Superior — have damaged the riprap and roadway multiple times while stressing the city’s cleanup crews and resources. City Manager Mike Angeli said it costs between $3,000 and $6,000 to clean up the mess after each such weather event.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that Lakeshore Boulevard has been suffering some severe weather damage over the last few years,” Angeli was quoted as saying in a recent Journal article. “We’re slowly reaching a level where it’s almost unusable as a traffic route. We may be there now, but I won’t know until the snow has melted.”

The city has had a plan for several years now to relocate the roadway farther inland and away from Superior’s lake level to higher ground. The plan would also involve building an armored embankment to further protect the shoreline from strong wave action and decrease the potential for future erosion, as well as provide parking and other amenities for people to enjoy along the route.

So why hasn’t the Marquette City Commission already adopted that plan? Well, we could give you millions of reasons, all of them being dollars. The cost of the project was estimated to be at least $11 million, a price seen thus far as a little too high by commissioners and administrators to take on, and rightfully so. That is a lot of money.

But now the city, along with the Superior Watershed Partnership, has announced it is the recipient of a $2.5 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation-National Coastal Resilience Fund. The city would have to match the grant with about $3 million. If it can’t, then the money’s gone. But to meet the match, other projects in Marquette’s Capital Improvements Plan may have to get slashed. Which ones remains to be determined.

There are still other funding requests pending with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and we hope those prove successful. However, a mixture of grants, borrowing money and making slight adjustments to the city’s Capital Improvements Plan might be an appropriate, though piecemeal, tack to take as well.

There are numerous things to consider, including the possibility of brownfield redevelopment funding, should any eligible properties be sold, that could help pay off some portion of the project.

The plan is something we could support if the city can ever secure the money needed to do it. But if that funding is coming solely in the form of higher taxes to residents, then that’s a different story.

Area residents should make their opinions known by speaking with commissioners and city officials, attending public meetings and submitting letters to The Mining Journal for publication, or by visiting our website to vote in our online poll. How important is Lakeshore Boulevard to you? We’d like to hear.