How do you cross a stroad?

A stroad of our own: East Front St.

Viewpoint from the Front and Grandview intersection.

Not too long ago the plan was to widen E. Front St. to five lanes; city residents voted down using parkland to do it. Even with 4 lanes it’s a stroad; built to carry cars at speeds too slow for a highway, too fast for the context of a city with multiple access points and multiple types of users.

For those of you not familiar with this section, to the north (left) are hotels, two parks, a senior center, convention center/school, and further down some waterfront homes. To the south (right) are restaurants, closed restaurants, office buildings, empty offices buildings, a salon, homes and a neighborhood.

Needless to say, people on either side this stroad have reason to access services and people on the opposite side. Yet, we’ve created an auto-centric speed zone (posted 35-mph) with very little consideration for people on foot, let alone people in wheelchairs or on bicycles. If you stand there long enough you can watch guests from the Holiday Inn attempt to cross the stroad on foot; they usually make it, barely.

Thankfully, this place did make the City’s list for the ongoing corridor study that kicked-off in January. The City is looking for more participants to create personal asset maps, answer questionnaires and take a “visual preference” survey.

You can find links to all those at www.traversecitymi.gov  or here (map) here (questions) and here (survey). The other corridors in the study are Garfield Avenue, Eighth Street, Fourteenth Street, and W. Front Street. Want to get more involved in the corridor study? Contact Russ Soyring, city planning director at 231-922-4778.

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How do you cross a stroad? 

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  1. kriosconsulting
    March 15, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Agree with the application of the Stroad designation here. And while there’s a lot of bad going on in this picture, I feel I must call out the good in this particular section. Northwestern Michigan College should be credited with re-imagining this desolate strip and committing to a long-term strategy to remove the old and gargantuan “refrigerator” building and replacing all that with the gem that is the Hagerty Center. And they didn’t just build an edifice. The sidewalks, main entry (no credit for the one at Hope Street), parking, and even the traffic light with pedestrian crossing at Barlow all serve the greater community. They did all this while still leaving us a vista of Lake Michigan. Impressive stuff. Across the street Plante Moran created another decent attempt at taming this blight, even including a serious built-in parking structure… not perfect, but it’s in the right direction.

    Now look east or west while sitting on one of the benches in front of the Hagerty Center and my utopian world changes significantly. The rest is a no-mans land of ill-planned curb cuts, parking strips, a disastrous curving Y intersection of US 31 and Front streets, a bizarre mix of retail, office, and McMall style real estate, and decaying pavement.

    There’s hope of course. A little work with the Holiday Inn could at least connect NMC and our own Sunset Park (how many citizens even know that exists?) with the rest of the West Bay frontage. Yes, there’s a sidewalk there now, but it’s too narrow, decrepit, and lacks any thought of pedestrian scale or service. Heading east from there is another sidewalk debacle that dumps you off at the ridiculously hazardous confluence of East Front and Peninsula Drive. Ever try to cross this street towards the Blue Goat? (JRW feel free to chime in on your front yard). As someone who rides my bike several times each week on the Old Mission Peninsula, getting from my home to the base of the peninsula safely is a regular concern.

    As a pedestrian/bike traveler this area serves almost no purpose for me. I only go there for NMC Hagerty Center events, and typically make concerted efforts to avoid the area at all costs. As a car driver (whoa is me), it’s an awkward transit at best as a completely utilitarian cross-town mandate.

    So Gary, to your point, Stroads kind of suck.

  2. Greg
    March 15, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Not sure where the problem is unless you try to find one. Lived on State Street for 10 years and had no problem walking to and from the Bay. There is a light at Barlow and Front, another at Garfield and Front. Near the Holiday Inn there is a path under the Boardman River Bridge. Three options for a safe crossings within .75 miles.

  3. March 15, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for mentioning the improvement at NMC’s property, Bill. It wasn’t that long ago when the walk through that section was a perceived narrow sidewalk wedged between 4-lanes of traffic and a tall, windowless, concrete wall; my heart raced almost every-time I went through there. Great to now have choices through that stretch.

    From the 2010 bayfront process, one of the more appealing recommendations for Sunset Park was swapping land with Holiday Inn to reorientate the park to run parallel to the water, not perpendicular to it. Despite luke warm City response to the process of seeing the idea become reality, it still remains a solid one.

    Greg, as you have mentioned before, walkability is to a degree subjective. Some people will certainly feel walking along and across this corridor is just dandy. This may likely be stronger among people who live near it and get accustomed to how to best navigate it in ways that serve their habits. Guests to the City don’t have that advantage.

    As someone who lives near this corridor, I often find myself at Rose and Front St. with my destination directly across the street (The Blue Goat, beach, friend’s home). This intersection is directly in between two signalized intersections and both are out of my way. On many days when I might visit the bayfront or The Blue Goat, I don’t because dealing with the traffic and hassle of going out of my way to get to a destination directly north of my home is simply not appealing. I’m able bodied and somewhat risk adverse, so I can only imagine how people with physical disabilities or slightly stronger self-preservation inclinations interact with this corridor.

    Is it the worse place in the City? No. Could it improve? Most certainly.

  4. March 15, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Gary and Bill….thank you for your kind observations of East Front Street. As a resident who lives on the north side of Front and works on the south side of Front, I deal with this traffic and corridor every day. According to the City of Traverse City traffic map, published for 2011, the combined traffic at E. Front & Peninsula Dr. is over 16,000 cars a day…and that’s in May. Front Street is a “stroad” that almost never sleeps. It’s the main east-west artery in town, other than 8th Street. It IS US31, M-72 & M-37. In my observation, traffic is rarely flowing at 35 MPH….it’s always faster, unless an emergency vehicle is passing by. Some day, I hope to get a count of the bicyclists and pedestrians that use this area for transport or recreation. It must be the highest ped count out side of downtown….with very few exceptions, all the traffic to and from the Old Mission Peninsula, flows by here, too. Add NMC, TCCHS and other attractions and a lot of people travel this route. Daily, year-around, I use the sidewalk on the north side of Front as my commute toward downtown. It HAS to be the single most dangerous sidewalk in the north. Even with front flashers on my bike, I have to dodge errant drivers, not expecting a bicycle on the sidewalk…no one should cycle IN this stretch of Front Street….PERIOD. The Holiday Inn driveway crossing is particularly hazardous….this sidewalk is NOT built for seniors or children…yet parks, beaches and the Senior Center are all right there. Because of the One-Way streets downtown, State Street is my route back home, to the Barlow crossing.

    At one point, years ago, an idea was floated around of connecting the NMC Great Lakes Campus with downtown, with a new non-motorized way from the Murchie Bridge, across the north of the Holiday Inn property, Sunset Park and potentially eastward, connecting the Senior Center, BayShore Resort and more. Even possibly as far as the Rose Street Easement to Peninsula Drive. It would be nice, but don’t plan on it. I also had a design for TART to join all the waterfront beach/parks with a trail I called the “String of Pearls”. It connected the State Park Beach on East Bay with the West Bay beaches….that’s gone no where. In May, it will be two years since I have asked and asked and asked the city for a quote on what it will cost to construct a sidewalk in front of our house, at least finishing the sidewalk to the end of the block….”Stonewalled”, is the only way I can describe it….and we want to pay for it! The city unfortunately cannot recognize the non-motorized human traffic at the base of the Peninsula. Peninsula Drive certainly should qualify as a candidate for “Complete Streets”, yet nothing is being done. And it’s a zoned R-1 residential street, being used as a short-cut, cut-through to and from the peninsula. We, as understanding citizens need to push the city to become aware of the need. It’s busy now, but Traverse City needs to be more of a destination (think Mackinac Island) where people flock to get out of their cars. The rest of the state is car-centric…we need to become an easy, delightful destination for visitors…..it IS our economy! Thank YOU!

  5. MK
    March 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    Greg has the most visual, to the point reality based response here.
    I find this overall conversation (and site) to be interesting yet at the same time hilarious!
    What theme befell you GL Howe in your younger years to be so scared or acrymonious of the little town you live in? What is your penchant and that of the little polarizing organizations in wanting to change it to your way of living so drasticly and so quickly?

    While Traverse City, or for that matter any place you go has its pimples, wharts and places in need of improvement; there are 20 times more reasons than not to really like this little speck on the earth. Why the rush to make this into someplace you obviously have been or need it to be? Would you not be better off finding a place that better suits your ideology, and temperment of like mined complaining souls?

  6. Brian
    March 15, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    MyWHaT is not the first in our area to recognize the problems with roads like Front Street, East Bay township was getting grant money last year to start planning how to fix their major Stroad: M31-72. The property owners realized that major roads, which divide businesses from people and from the natural resources that draws people to the area, is bad for everyone. It leaves the entire area underutilized from all perspectives. With very little thought and expense, we can create a better street which serves business and residential interests, improves safety for everyone AND makes traffic flow more smoothly.

    I don’t think anyone that is posting what they view as problems with Front St. as acrymonious or scared (MK) of their great little town (by the way, our little town as become the regional hub). Instead, we take this opportunity to provide comment on how we think we can make this an even better City, especially since this very road is under study for redesign and rebuild.

  7. kriosconsulting
    March 16, 2012 at 9:11 am

    I would only say to the doubters that such acrimony as described above is not new, and certainly not owned or invented by Gary and this blog. There have been strong, rational, counter-flow, voices in this community for decades that have helped to shape this beautiful place. I’m sure there was a time when someone just like Gary (albeit minus the Internets) that once posed similar questions about all those factories and commercial docks on our bayfront a scant half-century ago. Considering the result, that’s the kind of acrimony I can live with.

  8. T. Werner
    March 16, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Well said.

    Not everyone thinks the status qou is the very best that we can do.

  1. April 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm

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