ALPENA - About eight months ago a group of property owners on M-32 approached Alpena Township with an idea that could help reduce traffic and improve safety on the highly congested business district.
The land owners volunteered to donate property on M-32 valued at $2.3 millin that could be used to construct an access road on the northern side of the highway. The road would run from Bagley Steet, snake behind Walmart and the Home Depot and end up at Crittenden Court, where a left turn would allow allow drivers to easily merge onto M-32. The township agreed to explore the possibility and formed an unofficial committee to get the ball rolling.
Township Supervisor Marie Twite said Michigan Department of Transportation, Alpena County Road Commission and the township have been meeting in hope that the new road could become a reality. She said she believes it is a good idea because it will allow for semitrucks an alternate route to the stores. She said the road would be public and could be used by motorists and the reduction of traffic on M-32 would help reduce safety concerns.
"The safety of our citizens and our visitors has to be the number one reason why this would be a good thing," Twite said. "These property owners are being gracious enough to give up something out of their pocket to make Alpena a better place and I think it would be foolish if we didn't try to make this plan work."
The access/service road would be about a mile long and be constructed with a 66-foot right-of-way. It would cost approximately $1.7 million to build and could be extended as development spreads to Walter Street or maybe Lake Winyah Road. Twite said there will be more development outside of the recently announced Meijer project and getting a grip on traffic and having firm plans in place to make navigating the area.
"I have spoken to state and national companies and they have shown a great amount of interest in coming to Alpena and we need to be forward thinking about how we can accommodate them," Twite said. "We need to have a plan in place to make sure we continue to provide our citizens what they expect from the community and keep them safe."
Twite said the biggest threat to the project would be if one of the key players were to have a change or heart. She said if the road commission or MDOT would not back the street, it could put the project in jeopardy, but she believes any concerns they may have can be overcome and getting them to sign off on the construction is hopefully not an issue.
"We need to have the agencies all work together to make this happen," Twite said. "I'm sure everyone has the same interest in mind and that would be to make M-32 safer and making Alpena more appealing for further development."
Before the road can be built the property must be surveyed, a study needs to be done to see how Bagley Street and M-32 would be impacted, and then a final road plan would need to be created. The biggest hurdle of course is money.
Twite said there are enough people and enough agencies involved that if they all work together money should be able to be found through grants or private donations. If the money is found it would then be up to the township, MDOT, the road commission to make the final call on the road. Twite said the land could be surveyed as early as spring.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.