We've traveled this road before and never gotten where we need to be. What to do about Division Street?
The north-south highway that splits the west side has been a problem for as long as most can remember.
As more and more people have moved to areas west and south of Traverse City, traffic has grown. The fact that Division is the continuation of two major highways — U.S. 31 and state highway M-37 — as they run through Traverse City just adds to the mix. In recent years, the growth of the Grand Traverse Commons has served as a multiplier. Left-hand turns at 11th Street are more perilous than ever.
Today, an estimated 25,000 vehicles a day drive Division, a huge volume for a street that is partly residential, partly retail and partly commercial all within a few blocks. The heavy traffic load leads to a host of safety, noise and other concerns.
None of this is new, of course, and efforts to do something about it aren't new, either.
Three years ago city officials talked the state into holding off on paving Division north of 14th to allow designers from the Grand Vision planning effort to suggest changes. That was a dead end.
Two years ago the city was divided over a proposal to put in as many as five roundabouts from 14th to Grandview Parkway. Nothing.
Other so-called "traffic calming" plans and efforts to make the street safer for pedestrians have come and gone.
It was encouraging, then, to hear the city commission once again pledge to pursue a plan for Division, though the resolution didn't provide solutions. What may make this effort different than other attempts is what appears to be the recognition that nothing is going to be easy and, more importantly, that the commission appears ready to ensure that something gets done this time around.
"I view this as the first step in the process of really starting to get serious and come up with a plan," said Mayor Michael Estes. "No matter what it requires, we have to move forward on this."
That's what must be different this time around — a commitment to somehow move the issue ahead, even an incremental step or two. There are steps short of approving five roundabouts that can be taken, starting with close cooperation with the state, which will ultimately decide on any change since Division is a state highway.
Judging by public reaction, the most pressing changes must deal with safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
It's amazing that there aren't even sidewalks in some areas along Division, leaving pedestrians to walk on lawns and around fences or even in the street, which is barely wide enough for cars and trucks. Many people in surrounding neighborhoods won't even try to cross except at Front Street, a long haul for someone who lives on Ninth or 10th.
There is nothing that resembles a bicycle lane on the pavement even if there was room for one; there is an abbreviated bicycle path on the west side of the street down near 11th, but it is woefully inadequate.
Pedestrian crossings are small and poorly marked, and lighting is spotty at best. Pedestrians can be almost invisible even at twilight; at night the problem is even worse.
Perhaps the biggest problem is left turns, particularly for northbound traffic trying to turn onto 11th Street, the entrance to the rapidly growing Grand Traverse Commons and a way into Munson Medical Center, the region's biggest employer.
With no left-turn lane there, traffic backs up sometimes past 13th Street; cars are constantly darting into the right lane to avoid being stuck; others take wild chances to complete their turn. It's a fatality waiting to happen. Rest assured something will be done if that happens; let's hope that's not the cost.
This is a marathon, not a sprint; the city must talk to the state, decide on at least one solution to one problem and get it done. Doing nothing cannot be an option.