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E-M:/ Citizens convince MDOT to scrap Petoskey Bypass after 15-year effort

Sept. 24, 2002

TO: Enviro-Mich
FROM: Kelly Thayer, Michigan Land Use Institute

Citizens convince MDOT to scrap Petoskey Bypass after 15-year effort

Hi Folks:

Here's some phenomenal news from Petoskey on Monday night.

The Michigan Department of Transportation announced the permanent withdrawal of their 15-year effort to build a $90 million bypass around Petoskey's nationally historic downtown and through active farms and countryside that presently are free of sprawl.

Instead, MDOT promised to fund a locally controlled study of local road improvements, which residents of this northern Michigan resort town have sought for more than a decade.

The announcement was a stunning about-face in the often hotly contested debate over whether the bypass would actually relieve congestion on U.S. 31 through Petoskey and its likely affect on the viability of the downtown and the township farmsteads. In recent years, the bypass debate had drawn national attention on the city of about 6,000 residents along Lake Michigan's Little Traverse Bay.

MDOT Director Greg Rosine said that strong and sustained local opposition to the bypass was central to the department's decision to end its $4 million study, which proposed to build a 10-mile bypass across southern Emmet County.

“There was never a consensus in the community; it was fairly split. This was a difficult process,” Director Rosine told an audience of about 150 residents who gathered for the hastily called meeting. Many of those in attendance applauded and cheered at the announcement. Bypass supporters immediately began filing out, stunned by the department’s reversal after years of insistence that the bypass must be built.

For 15 years, many residents of the city and Bear Creek and Resort townships maintained that Petoskey is a major tourist destination and therefore would not benefit from a highway bypass designed to allow traffic to pass through without stopping. Residents asserted that a bypass would have weakened the downtown, a national historic landmark with a mix of boutique and pedestrian shops, broad sidewalks, and an expansive central park. And they feared the bypass would unleash a wave of sprawl across the actively farmed townships. Instead, residents asked for MDOT to improve the existing U.S. 31 and to assist in upgrading local roads.

MDOT should be thanked for hosting the special meeting and making the announcement in person to cancel the bypass.

Petoskey area residents should be thanked by all Michigan citizens, as well as northern Michigan's many tourists, for protecting one of the state's premier areas of scenic beauty and thriving small town life.

News coverage:
Beltway spiked
Sept. 24, 2002
The years spent by the Michigan Department of Transportation contemplating what route U.S. 31 should follow through the Petoskey area have come to an end with a decision not to build a bypass route, MDOT officials announced Monday...

September 24, 2002
State says no U.S. 31 beltway in Petoskey
- MDOT did offer to pay for a local-roads option if area officials can decide on one
Record-Eagle staff writer
PETOSKEY - It's no way, beltway.
After nine years of direct study and local wrangling, the Michigan Department of Transportation unveiled its recommendation on a proposed bypass of U.S. 31 around the city Monday...

Mr. Kelly Thayer
Transportation Project Manager
Michigan Land Use Institute

205 South Benzie Boulevard
P.O. Box 500
Beulah, MI 49617

Ph: 231-882-4723
Fax: 231-882-7350
E-mail: kelly@mlui.org
Internet: http://www.mlui.org/