« More on Resolution re I–75 Crossings | Main | History, I–75 Crossings Project »

2007.03.20

Improvements are Needed at M–32 & I–75

2007 March 20

    Time is short.  Redirecting the funding for new/improved I–75 crossings will require many residents in Otsego County to write and call their elected Road Commissioners.  The next meeting of the Road Commissioners is TBD at 1:00 pm at the Otsego County Road Commission on McCoy Road west of Old 27.  Hope to see you there. 

    What a great opportunity we have in Otsego County for federal and state funding to improve local traffic conditions.  The traffic congestion is at M–32 & Dickerson and along M–32 in the vicinity of I–75.  That is where you wait for traffic lights.  When was the last time you waited at McCoy or Milbocker?  When was the last time a crossing connecting McCoy and Milbocker Roads would have reduced your travel time?

    Unfortunately the decisions on how to use the federal and state funding were made without public hearings and without a vote of the residents.  The vote on whether or not to provide additional funding was defeated by Otsego County votes by more than 2:1.  My observation is that redirecting the funds where the improvements will help the most residents, at M–32 & I–75, can occur with a strong message from the residents.  But the residents will have to speak out.  Write a letter to the editor.  Write your elected Road Commissioners.  Write your elected County Commissioner(s). 

    Or, post a comment on this weblog with your name.  I will make sure comments are sent to both groups of commissioners.

Don Nordeen
===========

Improvements are Needed at M–32 & I–75 (continued)

    Thanks to the Gaylord Herald-Times — The articles in the 2007 March 21 issue are comprehensive and include interviews with a number of people who are involved or have and interest in improving traffic flow in central Otsego County.

    History of the Federal and State Funding — My understanding from two sources is that Senator Leven in 2004 April at a meeting in Gaylord stated that he would like to earmark some federal funds for an Otsego County project, but that he wanted to avoid the adverse publicity that occurred with the Petoskey bypass proposal.  A Herald-Times article dated 2005 Sep 07 reported "The timing was right on this project, the presentation was essential to effectively communicate the urgent need the community has for these highway crossings," Levin told a group of about 20 city, county, state and federal officials. "I have never in my 25 years in government seen anything move so fast."  The earmark was included in 2005 federal legislation which was earlier than anticipated.  The project description required for the federal legislation was ahead of the local work to define best use. The earmark was approved in the 2005 legislation.  Those articles, or excerpts thereof, are in post at the Otsego County Economic Alliance with unknown date(s), likely 2005 Apr through Aug. 

    Another important statement from Senator Levin concerned his expectation that others would properly handle the details of the project.  The 2005 Sep 07 article reports, Levin, though not aware of the matrix steps which need to be accomplished as the group of local, state, and federal transportation departments begin to undertake the actual planning phase of the work, expressed the importance of keeping him informed of the timelines and milestones set forth. "We will do what we can to facilitate this process," Levin assured. "Frankly this thing has to work. We had to say no to so many other people in order to get the funding for this approved."

    My comments:  I think all of us in Otsego County owe Senator Levin our best efforts and willingness to share with him our progress and findings to keep "him informed of the timelines and milestones set forth".  And that includes choosing and developing the most cost effective use of the public funds which was to address the traffic congestion related to the I–75 barrier primarily at M–32.  If correction is needed because the earmark preliminary definition and approval occurred earlier than expected, Senator Levin expects to be involved "to facilitate this process".  Some of us are old enough to remember that Senator Proxmire used to identify a "golden fleece award" for wasteful government spending.  We should be doing everything we can to ensure that there will never be a question about the earmark being used for best cost benefit.   

    Focus on Facts — I appreciate that reporter James Martinez quoted me with my reference to the facts in the 2004 Crossing Study Report as the basis for my conclusions.  Road systems and traffic flow are technical problems which can be, and were, addressed by appropriate engineering methods described in the 2004 Crossing Study Report. They are not subject to feelings and differences of opinion. 

    I note that many of the comments by people involved in recommending the McCoy-Milbocker crossing have not cited facts in support of their statements. Quotations from the two 2007 March 20 articles are the following:

  • Road Commissioner Eugene Fleming
    •      “We feel from a road commission perspective that it’s still money well spent,” said Otsego County Road Commission vice chairman Eugene Fleming.
           Fleming said the community and leaders have done a lot of homework on the project and the venture is worthwhile. He coined Nordeen’s criticism as a difference of opinion, but said he appreciated Nordeen providing his feelings on the issue as a gentleman.
           “I’m totally familiar with the M-32 problem; it’s a bottleneck,” said Fleming, who believes discussions of future projects three or five years from now, like a road connecting McVannel Road to Milbocker, would address the M-32 traffic issue as the area develops.
           Fleming confirmed officials involved with the I-75 crossing project were familiar with the DLZ study Nordeen references.
    • Comments and Questions:  No facts and no references are cited.  Doing a low of work and getting the wrong answer is not serving the public interest.  He offers no facts or engineering studies regarding the degree of reduction in congestion at M–32 from a new crossing at McCoy-Milbocker.  MDOT (Mr. Felt) described any future projects with uncertainty.  Uncertain future projects won't fix the congestion at M–32.  Are there other plans and funding to address the traffic congestion at M–32?  Why did the elected Road Commissioners not confirm that the recommendations were consistent with the objective to reduce congestion at M–32 and to implement the recommendations regarding road system changes?  Mr. Fleming mis-characterized my focus on facts as "difference of opinion" and my "feelings" on the matter. 
  • OCRC Managing Director Mike Roper
    •      OCRC Managing Director Mike Roper said he has read the study but believes the crossing fits in with improving traffic congestion.
           “If we miss this opportunity we may never get the crossing and I believe we need it to make later changes to M-32,” said Roper. “No one thing is going to solve the (traffic) problems ... We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think it was worthwhile.”
    • Comments and Questions:  What does "fits in with improving traffic congestion mean"?  When I called Mr. Roper in early January, I asked what traffic volume would be diverted from M–32 to the proposed McCoy-Crossing?  He answered that he didn't know, but the answer was in the study.  What is the answer?  The last two sentences of the second paragraph are empty narrative.  No facts.  No references to engineering studies. No references to recommendations and conclusions in the 2004 Crossing Study Report. 
  • Jeff Ratcliffe, executive director of the Otsego County Economic Alliance and I-75 Crossover Task Force member
    •      Jeff Ratcliffe, executive director of the Otsego County Economic Alliance and I-75 Crossover Task Force member, adamantly disagrees with Nordeen.
           “We went through a lot of hurdles to secure that earmark,” said Ratcliffe. “Those earmarks aren’t easy to get.”
           The crossing represents a good start on addressing traffic problems and will increase in value as the area develops, said Ratcliffe. He also stated that the difficulty of securing and retaining such an earmark is proof the crossing plan is needed because the funding would not be provided for a project that does not improve traffic flow.
    • Comments and Questions:  According to my information described above, the federal earmark was presented by Senator Levin.  I am sure a lot of work was done on the paper work.  Getting matching funds from the state was a major task.  Getting a good start is not the task, in my view.  We don't know what funds might be available in the future.  Accordingly, the obligation is to make most cost effective use of the funds, which the 2004 Crossing Study Report states is at M–32.  The last statement "proof the crossing plan is needed because the funding would not be provided for a project that does not improve traffic flow" suggests that some documentation of engineering studies was provided.  What is that report?  What does it state?  What is the justification?  What is the cost benefit?
       

    Below are other comments:

  • Mr. Jeff Ratcliffe on 2007 Apr 23 — The task force ... began preparing for Friday’s presentation back in November when they assembled to review the I-75 East/West crossing study prepared by DLZ Michigan.  ... 
    • “We did not want to let the plan sit on a shelf somewhere, " stated Ratcliffe,
    • Noting the strong community motivation as a driving force behind the project, Ratcliffe praised community leaders who were adamant about solving the morning rush-hour and weekend traffic congestion around the M-32 and I-75 interchange.
  • Mr. Jeff Ratcliffe on 2007 Jan 03 — According to Ratcliffe, the task force reviewed six proposals, which followed Federal Highway Administration guidelines for selecting an engineering consultant before making their recommendation.
    • Questions:  What were the six proposals and what was the cost and benefit analysis for each?  Who is the consultant?  Were the conclusions different from those in the 2004 Crossing Study Report?  And if so, what is the new information and justification?
  • Mr. Joe Duff on 2006 Feb 22 — “The clock is ticking on this project, and time is of the essence,” said Gaylord City manager Joe Duff. “The state of Michigan has not yet agreed to fund any portion of this project which is so vital to the state, so we need to get the ball rolling.”
    • Questions:  What is the basis for the claim "so vital to the state"?
  • Mr. Joe Duff on 2006 Feb 22 — Although capturing the funding before the clock runs out is an important issue, Duff sees the matter of convenience to county residents as equally important. “We are interested in making life simpler for the people in this county,” Duff stated. “We believe traffic on the M-32 corridor will be reduced by 15 percent once the crossovers are in place.
    • Question:  What is the basis for the 15 percent?  I do not find such a statement in the 2004 Crossing Study Report.
  • Mr. Ken Glasser, County Commissioner, on 2006 August 7 — “We're basing (the crossover recommendations) on traffic studies done by professionals,” said Glasser. “We're (commissioners) not individually claiming to be experts,” he said of the designed proposal for the two crossings.
    • Questions:  Who are the experts who recommended a new crossing at McCoy-Milbocker over improvements at M–32 as the most cost effective way to reduce traffic congestion along M–32?  Where is the documentation?
  • 2004 Crossing Study Report —
    • 2003 July 14 — The Northeast Michigan Council of Governments (NEMCOG) has gotten the green light from the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) to explore alternative routes for crossing I-75.
    • 2003 July 28 — "By the end of the study, our goal is to provide you with long-term solutions and shorter, stop-gap solutions so you can get the best traffic operations as you go along," said Wes Butch, DLZ manager. ... Alternatives to building new roads will definitely be considered, such as improving existing interchanges, improving existing roads to handle more commercial traffic, adding turn lanes to existing roads, or changing traffic signals.  ... "The solutions will be dictated by the definition of the problems," Butch said.
    • 2003 Aug 25 — About 50 area residents showed their willingness to help solve traffic problems in Gaylord by attending a public information open house Tuesday, Aug. 19 at the University Center.  ...  "The people made it clear there's a big problem on Main Street, especially eastbound at the I-75 interchange," Butch said.
    • 2004 Feb 04 — Forget bypasses and a new interchange. The solution to Gaylord's traffic congestion will likely be found with less dramatic, and less expensive, fixes.  ...  "Another interchange between the north and south interchanges is the least likely alternative, there are significant obstacles to it," Butch said.
    • 2005 Apr 23 — Wes Butch of DLZ Michigan gave the group a brief history. “Our two goals were to clearly identify existing and future traffic problems related to east/west travel across I-75, and to recommend short- and long-term solutions, and provide recommendations for road improvement funding.”
  • Need to relieve congestion on M–32 in the vicinity of I–75
    • 2003 Aug 25 — About 50 area residents showed their willingness to help solve traffic problems in Gaylord by attending a public information open house Tuesday, Aug. 19 at the University Center.  ...  "The people made it clear there's a big problem on Main Street, especially eastbound at the I-75 interchange," Butch said.
    • 2004 Feb 04 — Forget bypasses and a new interchange. The solution to Gaylord's traffic congestion will likely be found with less dramatic, and less expensive, fixes.  ...  "Another interchange between the north and south interchanges is the least likely alternative, there are significant obstacles to it," Butch said.
    • 2004 July 28 — Remember how congested the traffic in Gaylord was Tuesday, July 6?  I remember specifically because as I sat through five light cycles waiting to make a left turn off M-32 onto Dickerson Road that evening,
    • 2004 Aug 25 — ... traffic from Gaylord's new 150-acre industrial park on Milbocker Road and the Edelweiss Shopping Center on Dickerson Road would result in bottlenecks around the I-75 and M-32 junction.
    • 2005 Apr 23 — Noting the strong community motivation as a driving force behind the project, Ratcliffe praised community leaders who were adamant about solving the morning rush-hour and weekend traffic congestion around the M-32 and I-75 interchange.
    • 2006 July 24 — “Recent Michigan Dept. of Transportation figures estimate 24,000 vehicles a day travel the stretch of M-32 between South Otsego Avenue and North Townline Road,” he [Gaylord City Manager and I-75 Crossings Task Force member Joe Duff] reported. “The crossings would give local traffic a much needed alternative to M-32.”
    • 2007 Aug 01 — Heavy congestion at the M-32/I-75 interchange precipitated the need for the project.



MDOT's Roundabouts featuring roundabout at I–75 & M–81 under construction, which is now complete and in service.

 

 

Key Words:  I75 Crossing;  I-75 Crossing;  I–75 Crossing;  I75 Crossover;  I-75 Crossover;  I–75 Crossover;  Gaylord, Michigan;  Otsego County, Michigan;  M32;  M-32;  M–32;  federal earmark;  traffic congestion;  bypass;  cost-benefit;  industrial park;  Otsego County Road Commission;  Otsego County Road Commissioners;  Otsego County Board of Commissioners;  environmental assessment;  I–75 Gaylord East-West Crossing Study Report;  I–75 Gaylord East-West Crossing Study Report;  I75 Gaylord East-West Crossing Study Report;  traffic study report;  Federal Highway Administration;  FHWA;  Michigan Department of Transportation;  MDOT;  traffic congestion

 

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/231533/17089986

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Improvements are Needed at M–32 & I–75:

Comments

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In