Traverse City’s corridors of opportunity

Yesterday, the City Commission reviewed the Corridor Improvement plan that was recently adopted as guiding policy by the Planning Commission and reported in the Ticker. The plan is a resource for the City to address five of our most under-achieving corridors: E. Eighth St., Fourteenth St., Garfield Ave., E. Front St., and W. Front St.

The plan identifies improvements that aim to “improve the appearance, function and vitality of these corridors.” Some of this is through crafting policy to encourage the developments desired, while a lot of it is wisely investing in the public right of ways to alter the context of these places. Currently, they don’t serve any one function well and, with the possible exception of W. Front St., are not attractive gateways to the City.

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Summary created by Gary Howe and presented to planning commission March, 2013.

Road conversions

An example of how the City could alter the context of at least two of the corridors, and suggested in the plan, are road diets. This treatment, more appropriately called road conversions, typically takes a four lane street (i.e. Eighth St., Garfield Ave.) and converts it to two travel lanes and a turning lane. This conversion often smooths traffic out while allowing for the over-all capacity to remain the same, if not improve*. At the same time, this calmer street improves safety by decreasing the number of crashes.

8th St.: Plenty of room for improvement.

A road conversion may also create extra space that can be devoted to increasing accessibility for people on foot, bike, and transit. This leads to an increase in property values and has proven to increase sales — people shop at 3-mph, not 35-mph.  More room along the right of way also increases opportunity for additional green infrastructure to reduce the cost of storm-water mitigation.

If we desire economic growth in the City, where it is more efficient and valuable, it needs to occur along these corridors. It’s imperative that we plan that growth with a goal of decreasing long-term costs associated with public infrastructure, increasing the tax-base and increasing opportunities for people to access housing, services, and jobs.

Revitalizing our major corridors, including the idea of road conversions, deserves  support and leadership. Redeveloping these areas is a critical component of a building a strong Traverse City.

If you agree, be sure to vote on November 5.

* Capacity is created when average speeds level out and slow down. A street can carry more traffic at 25-mph than 35-mph. (Better Cities)

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