Finding new truck route worth the effort

Marquette city officials launched an effort this week to open up a dialogue with its neighbors involving the large increase in truck traffic through their communities that is on the horizon.

The city commission approved a motion to have the city manager attempt to organize a joint meeting of the commission, the Marquette County Board, Marquette Township Board and Marquette County Road Commission to discuss alternative truck routes to the one Rio Tinto plans to haul its ore from the Eagle mine to its Humboldt Mill.

Concerns over the increase in truck traffic from the mine, which is expected to begin production in 2014, became more significant when a plan to construct a new north-south haul road – Marquette County Road 595 – through the woods from the mine to the mill was scrapped.

Rio Tinto now plans to use its originally intended route, which involves trucking the ore from Eagle Mine on County Road AAA to CR 510, then on CR 510 to CR 550, south on CR 550 to the city of Marquette, then on Wright Street to U.S. 41 and finally west on U.S. 41 to the mill.

While we maintain our stance that the CR 595 option was by far the best route, particularly for public safety reasons, it’s a good idea to have the county, city and township seriously explore an alternative to driving the trucks through residential areas and on busy roads.

However, the point made by city commissioner Fred Stonehouse that having the full commissions and boards gather for a joint meeting would not be very productive is well taken.

Instead, the commissions and boards – as well as their constituents – would be better served by appointing a limited number of representatives each to a panel that would work on the issue.

In addition, the panel should also include representatives of Rio Tinto, the logging industry and other trucking interests and perhaps state and federal agencies that oversee transportation.

With all these interested parties working together on the trucking issue, perhaps a feasible alternative route could be identified, permitted and built before the constant stream of heavy trucks rumbles through town and the township.