Moving in the Right Direction: West Front St.

As you cross Union St. walking west on Front St. you quickly transition from the embrace of downtown into an exposed and uncomfortable environment for the next half-mile to Division St. If you are in a car, the transition is masked by the confines of your own, personalized environment. In the car, you instinctually press the gas pedal a little heavier.


Google Street View of West Front.

As the adjacent street design opens up–4 story buildings turn to single story businesses or large parking lots, pedestrian lighting turns to more highway style–your speed will increase from the average speed of 15-18 mph in the heart of downtown to a speedometer reading of 26-32 mph.

This is the speed for which 60-70% of us are likely to drive in Traverse City’s 25-mph zones designed like the current West Front St. The best speed for urban retail is 3-mph and the goal for this street is a walkable corridor to help achieve a true urban street more connected to the success of downtown and residents in adjacent neighborhoods.


Proposed cross section designed by Influence Design Forum working with City Engineering.

This year, spurred by $1 million from MDOT’s Roads and Risks Reserve Funding, a major make-over is in motion from the Pine Street Bridge to Division St. This $2.1 project has the potential to be a major catalyst for transforming this corridor into a more efficient and economically prosperous place. The more welcoming it is, the more wallets local businesses will see come through their doors.

WestFrontCross2The design isn’t a complete 8-80 design, meaning it still won’t be comfortable to see eight-year olds and eighty-year olds riding bikes down the street, but increased space and consideration for people on foot along the sidewalks and at the intersections will help improve the street as a place. Mid-block bump-outs, street lighting, and other amenities will also help provide for more crossings and help slow automobile speeds to a more urban context that is safer and more efficient. People accessing businesses and services on this stretch by bike will have additional space as the current conventional bike lane will be widened to an industry standard six feet instead of the current minimum of four and half feet, a.k.a. a car door lane.

Tomorrow night the City Commission reviews the project before it goes into final design and eventually out for bids. If you want to review the project and see additional designs, it is described at length in the Commission’s packet.

What do you think? Send a message, comment on Facebook, or send the full City Commission an email at

This entry was posted in Economic Development, Public safety, Social Capital. Bookmark the permalink.