City wants joint meeting on truck traffic

MARQUETTE – The Marquette City Commission is looking to have a joint work session with Marquette Township and county officials to address regional trucking issues.

In a 4-2 vote Monday, the board directed City Manager Bill Vajda to request the work session “to discuss the need for an alternative truck route.”

In the wake of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to not permit the proposed Marquette County Road 595, local groups have been working to determine the route mining company Rio Tinto will use to transport ore from its Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill.

The company has announced its intent to haul down Marquette County Road 550 and into the city of Marquette. From there, the trucks would travel down Sugarloaf Avenue and onto Wright Street, before heading into Marquette Township and then U.S. 41 West to the mill.

Commissioners have voiced concerns ranging from increased infrastructure degradation to possible noise and safety issues. They said Marquette Township representatives should have the same concerns.

The commission directed Vajda to try and schedule a joint work session with the Marquette County Board, the Marquette Township Board and the Marquette County Road Commission.

“I agree it’s important to have the county board here, but I think it’s also important to have the county road commission and Marquette Township in on it,” Commissioner Robert Niemi said.

Commissioner Fred Stonehouse said he thought it was important to have the opinions of local representatives voiced in a public forum, but he said it could be counterproductive to assemble such a large group.

“You realize we could have 30 people in that room?” Stonehouse asked. “You realize what will come out of having 30 people in a room? Nothing.”

Stonehouse and Mayor Johnny DePetro voted against the motion to schedule the meeting.

The city commission also charged its special legal counsel with determining how best to communicate with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concerning Rio Tinto traffic on city streets.

In an August letter to the EPA, the city voiced concerns related to the prospect of mine trucks traveling through Marquette.

At that time, according to the letter, the city had no plans “for expanding local infrastructure to support increased heavy truck traffic.” The alternate route would “create substantial negative social impacts, as well as drastically undermine decades of transitional economic development and tens of millions of dollars of investment supporting Marquette’s current economy.”

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.