TART Trail to expand and extend near bay

Nov. 19—TRAVERSE CITY—Plans to expand and extend Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trail along West Grand Traverse Bay could take what CEO Julie Clark called an exciting next step.

City commissioners on Monday could vote on a bid from engineering firm Progressive AE to pen engineering plans. TART Trails wants to widen the popular pathway, reroute it in parts and extend it down Peninsula Drive to Eastern Avenue, Clark said.

The company offered to complete the plans for $448,391, and to administer construction for another $325,031, according to a memo from city planner Shawn Winter — he recommended just awarding the design engineering portion for now.

TART Trails, the city and its DDA all chipped in $150,000 for the design engineering, Winter said.

Much of the bayfront trail was built in the 1990s, and was designed for different uses than how people engage with it today, Clark said. Many more people are using it for transportation and recreation, both visitors and locals alike.

“We know that what’s out there today isn’t meeting the needs of either locals or visitors, so this opportunity to be able to extend the trail to the east is really exciting,” she said.

Plus, it gives TART Trails a chance to address some of the things not included in the Michigan Department of Transportation’s planned reconstruction of Grandview and East Front Street from Division Street to Garfield Avenue, Clark said.

Commissioner Mi Stanley said there are limitations for what can be done for pedestrians, cyclists and others on an MDOT trunkline.

“So I definitely see the value of investing in improving our nonmotorized trail system adjacent to that very heavy vehicle-trafficked corridor,” she said.

Stanley said she’s also looking forward to a solution for conflicts at the West End Beach parking lot, and extending a pathway near the waterfront where so many people want to be.

The hope is to coordinate trail construction with rebuilding the thoroughfare, slated to start in 2024, Clark said. Both the nonprofit and MDOT are working together to avoid having to tear up the same earth twice, and skip even more disruption along the corridor, Winter said.

Early estimates put construction costs at $7.9 million to $8.6 million, Winter said — he cautioned those are prone to fluctuate.

Clark said completing the engineering design will give a more definitive estimate. She’s working with the state, city, DDA and more to find funding. One possibility could be the $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill passed in 2021. And other aspects of the project like park and stormwater improvements could make other sources available as well.

“So you know, if we can do the best project possible, then I hope the funding sources are out there,” she said.

Plus, Traverse City has a good track record of supporting projects like this one, Clark said.

Progressive AE was one of two firms to bid on the engineering design, the other being Environmental Consulting & Technology, documents show.

Winter said a committee selected Progressive AE based on the product the firm offered. The same firm also worked on the conceptual design, and with the city and MDOT after some commissioners raised objections over the state highway department’s plans for Grandview and East Front.

Stanley agreed that experience in working with MDOT was valuable.

“I definitely see the value of trying to align a project with the rebuild of the (Grandview) Parkway in terms of minimizing disruption overall,” she said. “And I do think that Progressive AE does know what they’re doing around working with MDOT to pursue the best options and outcomes for our community overall.”

Commissioners’ agenda also includes:

* approving the sale of 35 acres at 1383 Cass Road, once slated for a railroad wye, for $321,000;

* approving a $2,605,050 contract with MDOT for the North Cass Street and South Union Street bridges projects, with the city to pay an extra $517,500;

* voting on the first five priorities for spending more than $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds; and

* applying for a grant from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians to support Jubilee House’s extended daytime services for people without homes.

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