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Diet test for negativity on Shoreline Drive taken by Muskegon commissioners

MUSKEGON, MI – To express concern about community negativity about a study on the narrowing of Shoreline Drive, Muskegon city commissioners have added a new parameter that could stop it early.

The first phase of a study that will temporarily reduce one lane in each direction from Shoreline Drive is scheduled to begin next month. The second phase is scheduled to run from mid-April to mid-July next year.

But the commissioners decided this week that the second stage is not Muslim. They will decide whether to continue to Phase Two after the results of the fall study come out.

Among the data the study will provide is how narrowing Shoreline — a four-lane street — will result in traffic delays and the number of motorists turning to neighborhood streets.

The study is part of city leaders’ exploration of better and safer ways to connect downtown and nearby neighborhoods to the Muskegon Lake waterfront, which Shoreline divides.

Ever since the city started talking about the “road diet,” people have taken to Facebook and other forums to criticize the idea and seem to be tenderizing the ears of a few commissioners.

Commissioner Michael Ramsey said it was a “nightmare” for city employees and commissioners as they prepared for the study and thanked them all for “sending out emails, phone calls and swings.”

For those who “don’t understand why we’re even taking a test,” Ramsay explained, getting information to make an informed decision about the future of the road is crucial.

“I would encourage everyone to reach out to us directly, stay away from… Facebook and get a proper education and understand the opportunities we have as a community even if we don’t agree, we can do so respectfully as we move forward,” Ramsey said.

Related: The Shoreline Drive diet trial starts soon in Muskegon

Leo Evans, Muskegon’s director of public works, told the committee at their meeting Tuesday, September 13 that the study this fall will take place during a time when driveways would have to be closed anyway for routine road maintenance such as patching.

Expected to last four to six weeks, the study, which will begin in early October, will alternately consider closing exterior lanes in both directions as well as interior lanes between Seventh Streets and Terrace.

Evans said the preliminary data from that study should “give us a little bit of insight into what works or doesn’t work.”

City officials said computer modeling indicates the tightening can take place without significant disruption.

Deputy Mayor Willie German Jr. asked, “What would a successful study on this project look like?”

“Whatever data we get is good,” Interim City Manager Lee Ann Michael replied.

“What we really want to do is understand what will happen when we close those lanes,” said Michael. “For me, success is just about completing the study and getting the data that really captures what’s going on.”

The German was not satisfied, saying that there must be a specific goal in mind.

“I just don’t see the importance here,” he said. “I think the answer was not appropriate to the question.”

Ramsay replied that there should be no question as to what would be the best study result.

“It’s really about what comes out of it in numbers, in black and white,” he said. “This is the benefit of the study.”

Commissioner Eric Hood agreed, saying, “We are fact-finding, and once the fact-finding is complete, a decision can be made.”

Mayor Ken Johnson said that decision about continuing to narrow the shoreline will depend on commissioners’ views, for example, on how much any delay resulted in traversing that stretch or how much additional traffic is acceptable on other streets.

Compare the potential narrowing of the Shoreline to the narrowing of Muskegon and Webster roads that have been converted into two-way streets instead of one-way streets. Before the Shoreline was built, Johnson said, roads were the main commercial route through town, dividing the Nelson neighborhood from downtown.

At the time the Shoreline was built about 20 years ago, the waterfront was still an industrial area and wasn’t thought of as the attractive area it had become, he said.

The western portion of Shoreline Drive was completed in 1994, and the eastern portion was completed 10 years later.

Johnson said the narrowing of the shoreline could provide an opportunity for bike lanes, parks or even parking on the unused portion.

Michael said officials at the Michigan Department of Transportation, which controls Shoreline Drive, have indicated that if the Shoreline is eventually narrowed, it will initially be done by combining traffic on one of the divided boulevards and leaving the other side intact so that it can be returned to its location. Current status if necessary.

Initially, the city considered conducting a traffic study on Shoreline in one phase this year. Dividing it into two phases would provide additional information but also increase the price of data collection and analysis from $49,090 to $62,790.

On Tuesday, September 13, the commissioners agreed to pay the additional amount in its contract with Progressive AE.

The commissioners also agreed to pay $16,825 for traffic controllers for the first phase of the study. Traffic cones, sidewalk markers, curbs, and plant beds will be used to block driveways.

The German cast the only vote on both measures.

The city has created a document that responds to frequently asked questions about the Shoreline Drive test project. It can be viewed by clicking over here.

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