IRONWOOD — Michigan Department of Transportation and city of Ironwood officials Thursday heard passioned pleas for new sidewalks on both sides of U.S. 2 during highway reconstruction in 2014-’15.
While there was some criticism of rerouting of traffic through Hurley during the 2014 construction at the public hearing at the Memorial Building, the sidewalk issue was equally as controversial.
The DOT plan is to have a sidewalk extending the full two miles on the north side of the highway, but not on the south side.
The city would have to pay to construct a south sidewalk.
There are currently walks on both sides of highway, but they are are not continuous and are hodgepodge.
“It will be safer than it is now,” said city manager Scott Erickson. He noted two city committees backed the one sidewalk option, with finances a concern.
Although the meeting was about the U.S. 2 (Cloverland Drive) project, the poor shape of many sidewalks throughout the city was addressed by several people in the audience.
Former city commissioner John Kasieta asked, “How are people going to get there?” referring to the north sidewalk, which will be five feet wide, buffered by four to five feet of green space.
It was pointed out most of the restaurants are on the south side of the highway and one woman said an elderly person couldn’t walk to them.
Mike Premo, of MDOT’s Crystal Falls office, said the project is still in its design phase and he said there are opportunities for changes this early in the game.
“We don’t have a lot of specific answers yet,” he said. “We’re looking at the best fit and we will try our best to make it good for as many people as possible.”
Premo noted there are hundreds of businesses and residences located along the two-mile stretch.
It’s such a big project, in fact, that it requires two years to complete, with May through October work schedules.
The present four 11-foot lanes will be expanded to 12-foot wide lanes. The DOT has the right-of-way to accomplish that, but at Douglas Boulevard and Lake Street, left turn lanes will be added to make them five lanes and that will require some property acquisition.
“We’re not going to take anything without compensating,” Premo said.
The city will be undertaking water and sewer work during both years of the project.
A key concern for many attending the meeting was the 2014 plan to detour eastbound traffic on U.S. 2 into Hurley. The traffic will be rerouted to Hurley’s Silver Street, then to McLeod Avenue.
Westbound traffic will continue to use two lanes on U.S. 2.
Premo said the highway couldn’t be reduced to using a single lane for both ways because so many vehicles make turns into businesses and residences.
The first half of the project will be from the tourist park to Curry Street.
The 2015 work will be from Curry to Roosevelt Street, near the plaza.
The DOT’s Ben Feldhausen noted the more driveways per mile, the more accidents occur. He spoke about access management issues and said it’s safer to have a car back onto a local street than onto a highway.
He also showed how businesses that have a single entrance and exit point, like McDonald’s restaurant, are much safer for motorists than those with undefined, wide open exits and entrances.
Premo said any side streets damaged by extra heavy traffic during the detour process will be repaired by MDOT.
He said from a financial standpoint, it would be easiest for MDOT to shut down the entire highway for a year, getting “in and out,” but that won’t be done.
Premo said accesses will be maintained to all Cloverland Drive businesses during both years of the construction.
Premo said MDOT has completed similar reconstruction efforts in Crystal Falls, Iron River and Iron Mountain, but they were not exactly the same. Iron River, for example, has only three lanes of traffic.
As far as the road surface is concerned, old concrete beneath the present blacktop will re removed and six inches of blacktop will be laid on top of a sand and gravel base.
About 75 people attended the session.
Another meeting will be conducted a year from now, when a contractor to be selected by MDOT will be available to answer questions.
Comments on the project may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.