City, Lundin talk road funding

MARQUETTE – The Marquette City Commission began a public discussion this morning that could lead to Lundin Mining Corp. funding some upgrades to city streets.

Commissioners have voiced concern in the past that heavy truck traffic related to the Eagle Mine would pose risks to health and safety and lead to expedited degradation of streets.

But the city and Lundin, which purchased the Eagle Mine last month, share mutual interests in safety and a well-kept transportation route, according to Matt Johnson, manager of external relations for the mine.

“So what we would like to do is develop an opportunity to have a dialogue with the city, because of those mutual interests, in planning and then funding improvements to city roads,” he told the commission during a work session this morning. “Eagle Mine is certainly willing to pay for a portion of those improvements.”

He said Eagle Mine officials are specifically interested in working on the intersection at Wright Street and Sugarloaf Avenue to include safety improvements.

Commissioner Mike Coyne said he has hopes that Lundin and the city can work together to make the best out of the situation.

“It really causes the citizens significant problems with more traffic,” he said. “The reality is, there are going to be trucks because there is no alternative right now.”

City Commissioner Don Ryan said he would like the commission to begin focusing on how to best handle the additional truck traffic.

“I think we have to be proactive here and start really making plans,” he said. “We kind of have to face up to the reality.”

Johnson said Lundin has plans to bring the Eagle Mine into production by late 2014. Production is scheduled to ramp up over the ensuing months, reaching full capacity by mid-2015.

“Which means there’s really one construction season before that, so we need to enter into dialogue and see what we can agree on in terms of what technically needs to be done, and then what the costs (are) and what our contribution is to that,” said Simon Nish, director of communities, communications and external relations for the Eagle Mine.

Commissioners voiced support for a plan to appoint an ad hoc committee that would meet with Lundin officials and City Manager Bill Vajda. Though the plan still needs to be approved during a meeting of the commission, the goal would be to craft a truck route ordinance, possibly on a temporary basis, and to secure some level of funding for city road construction.

Commissioners also expressed hope that the city and surrounding municipalities can succeed in planning the construction of an alternative trucking route or bypass road.

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