Bessemer council votes for three lanes on U.S. 2; says no to pot
January 8, 2019
By P.J. GLISSON
Bessemer - The Bessemer city council voted Monday for a three-lane option on U.S. 2, with modifications for greater width on each end of town to ease movement of industrial vehicles on Massie and Tamarack Avenues.
Massie Avenue allows traffic to and from the city's industrial park, and Tamarack Avenue lies next to Steiger's Home Center.
Michigan Department of Transportation officials have been awaiting the lane decision so they can proceed with formal plans for the reconfiguration.
The unanimous vote came after mayor Adam Zak explained that city attorney Ray O'Dea had recommended the three-lane choice on the grounds of protecting the city from potential liability.
"I have tried everything I can think of," said Zak in relation to trying to please the greatest number of city residents. "I have a heavy heart for the four-lane supporters."
Zak added, however, "Mr. O'Dea's legal advice holds a lot of weight."
Dated Dec. 26, 2018, O'Dea's letter states that a 2008 state study showed three lanes would allow safer traffic flow for Bessemer. Moreover, he said if three lanes were installed now, it would facilitate an extra 18 inches of shoulder width on each side of the highway, thereby also contributing to pedestrian safety.
O'Dea warned that if the city voted for four lanes which then resulted in problems due to the necessity to reduce sidewalk width as part of that plan, there could be "potential responsibility for (related) accidents."
Finally, O'Dea said the three-lane configuration would be more cost effective to maintain.
"I don't like it, but I don't think we have much choice," said mayor pro tempore Allen Archie, who had pushed for citizens who preferred the four-lane option.
Council member Linda Nelson said she liked the idea of maintaining four lanes but added, "I trust Ray O'Dea."
"In time, it'll be okay," assured councilman Rob Coleman. "Three-lane is not the end of the world."
Councilman Terry Kryshak said he also supported the three-lane choice. He said if the council voted against O'Dea's advice and then resulted with legal woes, "We would be remiss in doing our fiduciary duty to the community."
Kryshak added, "I think MDOT did a fabulous job in working with us," and he and other council members also commended community members for their input.
During public comments, Jan Massie, who lives on U.S. 2, said to the council, "I'd like to thank you, too, for this excruciating process wherein not everyone could be made happy."
Resolution No. 2017-20 reads that the City of Bessemer supports and formally requests that MDOT convert U.S. 2 "to a 3-lane cross section within the curbed urban limits from west of Hillcrest Avenue easterly to Old U.S. 2 with one lane coming into Bessemer on both ends and two lanes leaving."
After the meeting, city manager Charly Loper confirmed that each of the three lanes will be 12 feet wide, or one foot wider than the current four 11-foot lanes.
The conversion of the lanes is expected to occur in conjunction with water and sewer work planned to begin in 2021.
No to marijuana
In other news, after a public hearing with no comments, the Bessemer city council voted to pass Ordinance No. 370, which will prohibit recreational marijuana establishments within the city.
The ordinance includes additional prohibition of the public sale and consumption of marijuana products, although that already is against state law.
The action follows last November's mid-term election vote that legalized recreational marijuana use in Michigan.