Traverse CityTraverse City Development February 21, 2024

Countdown Begins to Grandview Parkway Construction

By Beth Milligan | Feb. 21, 2024

The countdown is on to one of the largest road projects in modern Traverse City history, with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) preparing to kick off the reconstruction of Grandview Parkway/East Front Street on Sunday, March 10, according to MDOT North Region Communications Specialist James Lake. Dozens of residents crowded MDOT’s Traverse City office at a Tuesday open house for the latest details on the $24.7 million project, which will rebuild 2.2 miles of downtown highway between Garfield Avenue and Division Street from March to November.

Drivers will see indicators of the project’s looming start date as early as next week, when workers continue ancillary work from the fall like installing signs and activating temporary traffic signals at intersections such as Railroad Avenue/East Front Street, Railroad Avenue/Washington Street, and East Front Street/Milliken Drive. Those signals will be in flashing mode to get drivers used to their presence before detours begin, Lake says. Project detours will kick off March 10 during slower Sunday evening traffic to provide a transitional start into full commuting traffic Monday, March 11.

The project is split into two segments, with unique detours planned for each segment. Segment 1 will take place from March to July on East Front Street between Garfield Avenue and Grandview Parkway. Segment 2 will take place from July to November on Grandview Parkway from East Front Street to Division Street (maps for each segment and detour routes are available here). From March to May, East Front Street will be closed completely between Garfield Avenue and Peninsula Drive, as well as on Garfield from East Front to Peninsula Drive. One lane of eastbound traffic will be maintained on East Front Street between Grandview Parkway and Peninsula Drive, with eastbound traffic then detoured up Peninsula Drive to Eastern Avenue and Milliken Drive. Old Mission Peninsula residents will also use the Milliken Drive detour.

In May, the L-shaped segment will reopen, allowing north/south traffic to resume through the Garfield/Front intersection and for the one lane of eastbound traffic to continue all the way along East Front Street from the Parkway to Garfield. No westbound traffic will be allowed on East Front Street between Garfield and the Parkway during Segment 1. Westbound traffic coming from East Bay and Acme will instead use Eighth Street and detour up Railroad Avenue to a new intersection configuration at Railroad/East Front/the Parkway, which will allow cars to enter downtown or go west on the Parkway. After finishing Segment 1 and taking a break for the National Cherry Festival, crews will work on Segment 2 from July to November, during which Grandview Parkway will be down to one eastbound lane and one westbound lane.

MDOT anticipates the primary “pinch points” during the first few months will be at the Railroad/East Front/Parkway and Milliken/East Front intersections. Even with MDOT coordinating the signals next to each other on East Front at Milliken and College/Fair – as well as the signal on Munson/Eighth to accommodate traffic coming downtown – drivers should anticipate delays that could add at least 15 to 30 minutes to their commutes. That’s especially true during school hours, when MDOT may temporarily halt traffic on Milliken Drive to let buses get in and out of Traverse City Central High School. City Engineer Anne Pagano says the city will be “installing additional signage and lighting to improve pedestrian safety along the detour route.” Both Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) and Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) are expected to communicate detour plans and reminders to students and families.

The construction will have a domino effect on other local projects and groups. Traverse City Downtown Development Authority (DDA) CEO Jean Derenzy told board members last week that while the city hoped to start work on the reconstruction of Eighth and Union streets in late March – a sister project to the reconstruction of Eighth and Cass streets last fall – that project is now slated to start April 29 since Team Elmer’s is the contractor for both the Parkway and intersection projects. The Eighth/Union intersection will be finished before Segment 2 begins in July. Meanwhile, the DDA is delaying work on another downtown project – constructing a staircase from the West Front Street bridge down to the Boardman River – until 2025 because it would require shutting down a lane on West Front Street during Parkway work.

The DDA is bracing for impacts on businesses with residents and visitors trying to navigate construction to reach downtown. Greenlight Marketing is helping the DDA create detour signs and campaign messages – as well as contests and prize giveaways – to help bring traffic downtown. The DDA also plans to partner with BATA on bus wraps and communications. BATA will split its popular free Bayline route into two separate loops serving the east and west sides of Traverse City from March to July. That’s one of numerous route adjustments BATA is making to assist riders with getting around during construction.

The city has other projects impacted by or connected to the Grandview Parkway project, including the Traverse City Senior Center rebuild. Construction crews will continue work on the Senior Center – which has already been underway for several months – with a targeted year-end completion date. While crews will have to navigate detours like everyone else, City Planning Director Shawn Winter notes that access to the Senior Center – like the NMC Great Lakes Campus and Hagerty Center – “will be maintained” throughout construction. Other businesses along East Front Street will be accessed by the alley or north-south streets where possible, according to MDOT.

Another notable project is the redesign of the downtown TART Trail, a partner project between the city, DDA, and TART Trails. The city plans this year to replace and widen the trail from Murchie Bridge west to Clinch Park and from the west side of Sunset Park eastward through the Traverse City Senior Center, as well as install new trail on the south side of Grandview Parkway from Division Street to Hall Street along Bay Street. The city had to recently tweak part of the redesign due to being rejected by Delamar Traverse City for an expansion easement through its property. Staff worked to redirect grant funding toward other sections of trail and are finalizing engineering with the aim of putting out a request-for-proposals (RFP) soon for contractors. Winter says the goal is to tackle the trail work simultaneously with the road reconstruction, though he acknowledges that “for contractors in our area, this is going to be a busy summer. Once we submit the RFP and get the bids, we’ll get a better sense of timing.”

Lake warns that the first week of major detours in any project tends to be the most chaotic until drivers get used to construction. “Our experience in other communities is that locals will find different routes that serve their needs,” he says. “We set up these detour routes primarily for people who are less familiar with the area.” While the project will have a significant impact on Traverse City this year, Lake points to the importance of rebuilding the deteriorating corridor, in addition to the estimated $3.2 million in underground utility upgrades the city will make during construction. Anyone familiar with the road’s condition recognizes “that this work needs to be done,” Lake believes. “People do understand that things will be much better here (when it’s finished).”

Pictured: East Front Street/Barlow Street intersection (left), MDOT open house Tuesday (top right), detour map for Segment 1 – March-May (bottom right)