Home > Editorial, Guest Writer > Boardman Lake Avenue: History Repeating Itself?

Boardman Lake Avenue: History Repeating Itself?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The community discussion about the land west of Boardman Lake and east of Old Town neighborhood will likely dominate MyWHaT this week. As mentioned last week, the City’s latest public input session on the subject (links to consultant’s introduction) will be held this Wednesday February 23rd at 7pm in the Governmental Center’s cafeteria. It’s billed as an area development project and I’m interested to see if the process treats the road as default or if access & development will be more broadly defined. Below, guest contributor Bob Otwell shares with us his perspective on the project, process and historical significance.

Boardman Lake Avenue: History Repeating Itself?

by Bob Otwell

Looking west along the bay in the 1890s, it certainly wasn't valued for its aesthetics.

We need to be careful! In the 1950’s, our city fathers worked with the State Highway Department to design an arterial (Grandview Parkway) that to this day degrades our two miles of public bay front. It is a barrier between the bay and the city. At the time, the bay front had an industrial past, was crossed with a railroad track, and wasn’t treasured like it is now.

Sound familiar?

Where is the economic development? Boardman Lake Avenue may make sense to me if we were expanding housing and commercial development in this area and needed another grid street for access. Recent housing development has occurred at the east end of 14th Street and south of Oryana. None of this development has access to, or needs, the BLA. The only thing we know is that with this new road, we would lose a business (Copy Central) and it’s tax base in the immediate future.

Let’s not build Boardman Lake Avenue. I see no compelling reason to build Boardman Lake Avenue; there are many reasons not to. I am sympathetic to residents on Cass and Union who experience high volumes of single occupant vehicles. Unfortunately, no one can accurately predict how well this proposed road, irregardless of the design, will reduce auto traffic on Cass and Union. In addition, residents along 8th Street, 14th Street, East and West Front Street, Garfield Avenue and Division Street all experience similar or higher auto traffic volumes. What are the City’s plans to address these streets and calm this traffic? At some point we need to draw a line in the sand, stop encouraging single occupant auto travel, and calm our busy streets to make them friendly for all residents and users of the public right of way. I think that that time is now.

The Boardman Lake Trail. This trail, when completed, will be a five-mile long jewel in the middle of our urban area. The new Boardman Lake Trail bridge over the Boardman River has provided access to a beautiful quiet corner of the city that is buffered by space from motorized traffic. The new road would degrade this experience, and create a barrier between Boardman Lake and city neighborhoods. I trust that the trail project and road project will remain separate and proceed forward on their own merits.

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  1. Rick Shimel
    February 21, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Bob, as an OT resident I’m not interested in your sympathy. I’ve been involved with this issue long enough that it just doesn’t matter who feels sorry for me. There have been decades of empty promises to do something/anything and a bunch of happy talk that has resulted in nothing. If what you really meant was empathy I don’t need that either. I need some action. I have also drawn a line in the sand; no more empty talk. Build the road.

    Building the Parkway, in the 50’s, was a big improvement. I remember my family piling in the car to drive the new road the day it was opened. I was too young to understand the significance (if there was any) but my parents were excited and I knew it would end in an ice cream cone. The point is it was an improvement and Traverse City was better for it (then). Do things change? Of course they do and we are suppose to adapt and change with it not wait for things to quit changing which is what I hear you and other “do nothing” advocates calling for. We can’t be afraid to do something today because it might not be the right thing down the road. I can guarantee nothing will be right if you look far enough down the road. More talk of traffic calming will result in nothing changing.

    Is Copy Central going out of business? I would guess they will be relocating and still paying their fair share of taxes. There is also a difference between commercial activity and economic development. A road without commercial activity can still have an economic development purpose. I’m not suggesting BLA is being designed for either.

    I love the Boardman Lake Trail (east side) and I can now access it with the new bridge. That’s the jewel next to the sewage plant. I have to cross Union, Cass, and Lake Streets to get to it now. I don’t anticipate another two lane road making it worse. I really think it will be easier. I also need to remind you that you built several miles of TART Trail along the Parkway. Do you currently see that as a mistake? As to the west side trail being connected to BLA…I can sympathize.

  2. Katie
    February 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Hello All, just to keep conversation going, here are a few more thoughts. Mr. Otwell’s analysis is extremely well-done. Yes, his viewpoint is different from those espoused by some Old Town residents. The difference is due, perhaps, to his viewpoint being based on current realities (rather than clinging to unchanged rigid views from 20+ years ago), and looking at impact on the entire city (rather than just a neighborhood or two). It is really amazing that this whole project is hanging around after a couple of decades, with some folks taking the view that it is still a ‘given’ of sorts and all we need to do is tweak the design. Granted, none of us are completely knowledgeable about the future; but the best we can do is try to project what might happen and plan for it accordingly. That’s sure a better approach than putting on blinders and ignoring the impact to the total city, both today and the future, of what BLA would do, based on backward-looking provincialism. After all, this would cost $5.5 Million of taxpayer money (one way or another), and all we get is 1/2 a road (Phase 2 might never be built, ever). As Otwell says, there is no ‘compelling reason to build BLA’. As stated by another person earlier in this conversation, ‘you can’t build your way out of congestion’. We should look to the future, plan for it best we can, and try to envision impact on ALL of Traverse City. That means integrating all the other studies/efforts that are currently under way (8th Street Corridor, Division Street, Warehouse district development, one-way Streets perhaps going to two-way, and on and on). Let’s all think big picture and what’s best for everyone overall! Thank you.

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