The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

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Bessemer US 2 lane talks continue


October 13, 2018

Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

CORY GARDNER, with the Michigan Department of Transportation, shows the potential width of the sidewalk along U.S. 2 in Bessemer Friday during a meeting on whether the highway should have three lanes or four. A four-lane design would narrow sidewalks through some of the downtown.


Bessemer - While no decisions are expected any time soon, talks continued Friday regarding the number of lanes U.S. 2 should have through Bessemer.

A group of roughly 15 city council members, residents and Michigan Department of Transportation officials walked the downtown section of U.S. 2 Friday morning in an effort to visualize how the various plans would work.

The city is being asked to choose between making the highway three lanes or four through the city. The change is necessary to bring U.S. 2 into compliance with state requirements regarding lane width.

If the roadway remains four lanes, each direction of travel would feature a 12-foot-wide outside lane and an 11-foot-wide inside lane, encroaching on the existing sidewalks to make room for the extra space.

If the road is reduced to three lanes - one in each direction with a turn lane in the center - the sidewalks wouldn't need to be narrower and there could likely be some green space added. Any reduction to three lanes would likely be different from the attempt to make U.S. 2 three lanes through the city a few years ago that some residents have been against repeating.

On Friday, the group measured several areas of concern to see where exactly the curbs and sidewalk would be in the four-lane plan - including in front of the Floor Plans store, A.D. Johnston High School and several of the houses that are on the highway.

One resident demonstrated how her driveway would actually be shorter than a single car length under the expanded four-lane plan, making it impossible for her to open or close her garage without having her car sticking out into the lane.

Given the narrowness of the sidewalk in some spots under the four-lane plan, Mayor Adam Zak questioned whether the city should consider removing the sidewalk from parts of the downtown if it went with the four-lane plan.

The suggestion stemmed from the concern Zak and several others had that the sidewalks may be too narrow for pedestrians to safely use without getting too close to traffic.

While Zak said he didn't think removing the sidewalks would necessarily stop people from walking there, at least the city wouldn't be encouraging it.

Following the tour of the U.S. 2 area, the group returned to city hall to continue the discussion surrounding various aspects of the decision and concerns the city council members had.

The MDOT representatives said they could create models to simulate traffic patterns to determine whether a three-lane design would cause traffic backups or delays as trucks tried to turn into the Bessemer Industrial Park.

The representatives also said the department reduced the number of lanes in Iron River, Escanaba, Newberry and elsewhere in the Upper Peninsula and while traffic backups were a concern in most places, the implemented designs successfully accommodated traffic without creating major delays.

With no decisions made, the topic will likely be discussed further at Bessemer's city council meeting Monday.


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