Should Traverse City Have Traffic Roundabouts?

In the opinion of Traverse City Mayor Chris Bzdok roundabouts are the only option now on the table that would do anything to make Division Street safer and easier for people to cross on foot or a bike. Transportation engineers say roundabouts slow traffic, eliminate waiting at stop lights and reduce the number of serious accidents. But getting a clear read on public opinion about a proposal to build a series of roundabouts between Grandview Parkway and 14th Street may be a tall order. The community appears to be polarized on roundabouts, which need voter approval; other aspects of the proposal could be controversial as well.

At a study session last month people gave the commission firsthand accounts of the ease and even pleasure of driving on roundabouts. Others who had no experience said they too were convinced. Raymond Minervini, with the Minervini Group, said the majority of the property owners on the Grand Traverse Commons, three blocks from Division, like the idea.

“We would hope the community would be open-minded and consider the roundabout proposal with facts,” Minervini said.Notably absent from the meeting were words like “foolish” and “disaster,” which are being used frequently on websites and local radio shows to describe what people think of roundabouts. In fact, nobody spoke against the idea at the study session although commissioners know that people are expressing harsh criticisms elsewhere.

There were some specific complaints about other aspects of the proposal. Right now the plan calls for a new road, 8 ½ Street, to cut across the corner of the Grand Traverse Commons known as the Women’s Walk. One resident said that road could make the neighborhood around Munson Hospital and Building 50 a cut through for cars coming from west of the city and heading south. Voicing a similar concern, Julia Wagner said she didn’t mind roundabouts but doesn’t want one at 11th Street. She says her residential street shouldn’t be treated the same as a commercial street like Front. 

“I am concerned that 11th Street is going to become the next cross-town route,” Wagner said.

The city commission will take up the issue again at a study session on May 10 at 7 p.m.

What do you think of roundabouts? Great idea? Stupid idea? Further the dialog by sharing your experience and views in the comment section below.

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