June 16, 2017 -- Like snow shovels and flip flops, some things aren't needed year-round in northern Michigan.
Pedestrian refuge islands, a place for pedestrians to wait for traffic while crossing a roadway, are popular features during warmer months when foot traffic peaks. During northern Michigan winters, however, they can be a nuisance for snowplowing operations or a hazard for vehicles.
A new seasonal pedestrian refuge island, the first of its kind in Michigan, will be installed June 22 at the Discovery Center - Great Lakes on M-22 in Greilickville (map: https://goo.gl/maps/1r2UKLjWFZD2). Along with the island installation, the center is consolidating its driveways to improve safety and convenience for visitors.
The Discovery Center, owned by Rotary Camps and Services, is the shared home of five water-focused nonprofit organizations: the Maritime Heritage Alliance, the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, the Great Lakes Children's Museum, Traverse Area Community Sailing, and Inland Seas Education Association. It also hosts the Traverse City Tall Ship, "Manitou." The Discovery Center has activities on both sides of the highway, and has been busing visitors across for safety and convenience.
The Greilickville corridor in Elmwood Township shares a feature of many waterfront communities: a busy state highway grown up from an old shoreline country road. This situation creates a barrier between the land-based uses and the important and valuable water resources that drive recreation and economic growth in Michigan. Elmwood Township has identified pedestrian islands of safe refuge as a solution in its Master Plan for the Greilickville corridor, its Marina Plan, and most recently in a detailed traffic study.
"Rotary acquired this property to provide more public waterfront space and access to the water for people of all ages, incomes, and abilities," said Rotary Camps and Services Executive Director Marsha Smith. "It is our hope that the seasonal pedestrian island will help reduce the barrier M-22 presents to people and facilitate more usage of this community space."
Discussions began in earnest last fall between MDOT's Traverse City Transportation Service Center (TSC) staff, Discovery Center representatives, and Elmwood Township officials looking for improvements to pedestrian traffic.
"We considered more elaborate options, such a tunnel or an overpass, but decided that the seasonal pedestrian island would be the most economical approach," said Rick Liptak, the Traverse City TSC manager. "It's also the option we could get installed as quickly as possible."
The overall cost of the island and associated driveway changes is roughly $50,000, with the island equipment costing about $8,000. The Discovery Center is paying for the upgrades; MDOT is issuing a permit for the island placement on M-22.
This is a pilot project, and MDOT and the Discovery Center will monitor results this season. If successful, MDOT may consider this option for other crossings.