Hey, Traverse City: Let’s Talk Sidewalks!

IMG_1152“Where the sidewalk ends” – a poem by Shel Silverstein or a descriptive term for places like Traverse Heights neighborhood or South Garfield Ave?

Thankfully, the City of Traverse City has recognized that many places in our City are lacking safe places to walk and are considering a major investment to build more sidewalks in places where the sidewalk ends.

Tonight, Traverse City Commissioners will consider two items of “Old Business” related to sidewalks in the city (see TC Commission 4.3.17 packet beginning on p.65 for sidewalk topics):

  1. A discussion on a proposal to address the sidewalk gap in Traverse City. At this moment, Traverse City has a sidewalk “gap” of 115,017 feet. In other words, 21.7 miles of roadway in the city do not have sidewalk facilities. An additional 15,391 feet (or 2.9 miles) of sidewalk is rated as “poor” to “very poor” and is in need of repair.
    • Essentially the current proposal calls for:
      1. 48,348 ft of NEW sidewalk in the Traverse Heights neighborhood (WooHoo!)
      2. 3,338 ft of NEW sidewalk for Garfield Ave. from Boon St. to City Limits (Another sidewalk to nowhere? Hey, Garfield Township / GT County Road Commission: you guys want in on this project, too?)
      3. 2,878 ft of NEW sidewalk for E. Front St. from Munson Ave to East Bay Blvd (Improved walkability to NMC Campus and East Bay Park? Yes, please!)
      4. Repair/replacement of the 15,391 feet of existing sidewalk rated as “poor” or “very poor” (Fewer tripping hazards, yay!)
    • The total estimated cost for this project is approximately $4.5 million dollars ($4.5 MILLION dollars for sidewalks? Wow! That sounds like a City that is putting its budget where its mouth is when it comes to walkability – cheers to you City of TC!)
    • There is no specific timeline for project implementation mentioned in the packet, however the TC Planning Commission “draft” Capital Improvement Plan does call for $4,500,000 in spending for sidewalk gap infill for fiscal year 2017/18 with an additional $366,500 allocated for each of the next five years. (Sooner rather than later, please! People need safe places to walk ASAP!!)

2. Discussion and vote on plans for Sidewalk Replacement and Gap Infill for 2016/17:

    • The scope of work for this proposal includes:
      1. 3,620 feet of NEW sidewalk on Centre St from Woodmere to Fern St. (A no brainer – build, baby, build!)
      2. 1,804 feet of sidewalk repair on 10th St from Division to Union St.
      3. Repair/Replace a small section of sidewalk along Division St. near Third St.
    • The City Commissioners will be considering a bid from Elmer’s for $413,079.35 to complete (Compared to $4.5 mil – that’s a drop in the bucket! Rubber stamp this and start pouring that concrete!)

Okay…so what does this all mean? The status quo for the City when it comes to sidewalks is to spend $300,000 – $400,000 per year (see 2016/17 plan as example) to repair/replace and add sidewalks to a few select locations. At the current pace, it would take decades to fill in the sidewalk gap throughout the City.

For places like Traverse Heights who have little to no sidewalk facilities – this is simply unacceptable.

This is why the Sidewalk Improvement Plan (project “1” described above) is so important. This proposal would allocate significant dollars to eliminate well over one-third of the sidewalk gap in one large scale project and investment.

Of course, additional investment will continue to be needed to address all of the gaps in TC’s sidewalk network. SoFo, Oak Park, Civic Center and Slab Town areas are just a few examples of places that also need sidewalks and are not included in the current scope of the sidewalk plan. (Phase 2, anyone??)

If you support sidewalks, safe places to walk and wheelchair roll for all people in Traverse City, please let your City Commissioners know before their meeting tonight.


A personalized message always works best, but if you’re short on time – you can copy + paste ours and simply fill in the blanks:

To: CityCommissioners@traversecitymi.gov, mcolburn@traversecitymi.gov, rsoyring@traversecitymi.gov

Dear City Commissioners, City Manager Mr. Colburn and City Planner Mr. Soyring,

Thank you all for your service to the City. Also, congratulations to you all on Traverse City’s recent win in the Strong Towns contest!

My name is _______________ and I am a ______________ resident who lives on _____________ street.

I am writing to express my support of both the Sidewalk Gap/Infill Project and the 2016/17 Sidewalk Replacement and Gap Infill Project.

One of the main factors that makes Traverse City a Strong Town is our walk/bikeablity. Our downtown and many of our neighborhoods are great places to walk – either for recreation or for transportation. Unfortunately, many of our residents still do not have convenient access to safe places to walk. The Traverse Heights neighborhood is one example of a neighborhood that is underserved when it comes to sidewalk infrastructure.

Please consider supporting both the 2016/17 Sidewalk Plan and the larger scale Sidewalk Gap/Infill project. With over 20 miles of our roads lacking sidewalk facilities, the City’s typical $300,000 to $400,000 investment in sidewalks is insufficient to provide convenient access to sidewalks to all of our neighbors. I applaud the City’s consideration of allocating $4.5 million to sidewalk investment and fully support this and future sidewalk investment where needed in the City. I encourage you to approve this plan and to champion its implementation in a timely manner.

I also challenge you to attempt to work with Garfield Township and the Grand Traverse County Road Commission on streets like Barlow and Garfield that desperately need continuous sidewalks their entire length, not just within the City Limits.


(Your name)


Thank you for your efforts to help make the Grand Traverse Region a more walkable, bikeable and rollable place for all people. Please join our advocacy grupo and help be part of the solution.


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