Blah, Blah, BLA – Traverse City does not need the Boardman Lake Avenue


This Monday’s Traverse City Commission Study Session will discuss plans for the West Boardman Lake area including the long discussed Boardman Lake Avenue (now called Boardman Lake Drive). Three potential road options have been proposed: 1) 8th to 14th St., 2) 10th to 14th St. or 3) No new road.

by Chris Hinze

In 2008, I moved to Traverse City after 25 years of living in metro Detroit. Shortly after settling into my home on Union St., I attended my first Old Towne Neighborhood Association meeting where the highlight of the evening was discussion of the proposed “Boardman Lake Avenue” (hereafter aptly referred to as BLA).

Champions of BLA hyped this motorized bypass, connecting 14th to 8th street, as a sorely needed remedy for the excessive amounts of traffic that plagued the North/South Old Towne streets, namely Cass and Union St. Proponents of BLA claimed that this new strip of pavement would magically funnel the majority traffic off of Cass & Union streets and onto BLA.

I’m a bit ashamed to admit that my initial reaction to this proposed road was positive. After living in metro Detroit for over two decades one is led to believe that adding more lanes and more roads is an effective strategy to reduce traffic congestion. Living on Union St. I have a front row seat to the congestion, road noise and blown stop signs  that characterize this city street. If BLA could help solve these problems, who wouldn’t be for it?

The problem is – BLA (or any new road for that matter) – is very often not an effective solution for a traffic problem. Shortly after this meeting, I picked up a copy of Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic which helped explain the theory (which was foreign to my metro-Detroit brain) of induced demand.

Essentially, the concept boils down to: “if you build it, they will come.” That is, adding more lanes for traffic will only create, well, more traffic – precisely the problem that BLA hopes to alleviate.

Yes, Traverse City does have it’s issues with traffic. Neighborhood streets like Cass, Union, Lake, Barlow and many others see traffic volumes and speeds that are less than ideal. However, adding a new street is not a smart solution to this problem.

We do not need another road along one of our beautiful lake shores. We do not need another physical barrier to east-west mobility in our city. We do not need BLA.

Instead, let’s consider other solutions that will help enhance mobility for all people in Traverse City:

  • Implement our traffic calming and complete street policies – Many of our neighborhood streets are not designed to act like neighborhood speeds. Let’s consider narrower streets, more on-street parking, more space for bikes and pedestrians, traffic calming at intersections and cross walks and more trees/vegetation as means to reduce traffic volume and speed.
  • Open up the grid. A traffic grid functions most effectively when traffic is able to flow freely. Traverse City’s one-way Front, State, Seventh & Eighth streets impair a free flow of east-west mobility. Let’s consider effective traffic calming on these streets along with a conversion back to two-way streets.
  • Robust investment in non-motorized and public transportation. Traverse City has very few marked bike lanes and zero protected bike lanes. Our sidewalk network is incomplete or non-existent in some areas. Our public transportation network has not been able to deliver a reliable service to encourage a meaningful mode shift toward public transit. Let’s invest in these non-motorized and public transit options as a smart solution to our city’s mobility needs.

Please share your thoughts on the BLA ahead of Monday’s study session. You can contact all City Commissioners and the City Manager via this address:

Passionate about a more walkable, bikable, livable Traverse City? Get involved with our pro walk/pro bike advocacy grupo HERE.



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