Ordinance could stymie big truck traffic in Marquette

MARQUETTE – The city of Marquette is proposing an ordinance that, if adopted, could pose significant road blocks for those hoping to use big trucks to move goods and services through certain parts of the city, including the Lundin Mining Corporation.

The Marquette City Commission is expected to decide tonight – as part of its consent agenda – whether to schedule an Oct. 30 special meeting and public hearing to consider adopting the ordinance.

The ordinance would repeal certain provisions of current law and provide new language establishing and regulating trucking routes within the city.

The panel meets at 7 p.m. in commission chambers of city hall.

“The action proposed is to initiate the public process leading up to consideration of the ordinance,” Marquette City Manager Bill Vajda said in an email to local officials. “If this supplement is approved during the meeting, it will merely start the public notification and scheduling process – not any immediate action (today) that would change the existing city ordinance.”

If the city holds the meeting and then decides later this month to adopt the ordinance, it would take effect no less than 10 days after that approval vote, according to Vajda.

The ordinance would prohibit commercial truck traffic for vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds on roadways not designated as trucking routes, with exceptions for fire, emergency, detoured, municipal and other government and road construction vehicles.

Included in the weight prohibitions are commercial trucks, truck tractors and semi-trailers, truck-tractor and trailer combinations or truck and trailer combinations. Those haulers could include logging trucks, delivery vehicles and others.

The penalty for violating the ordinance would be a civil infraction and a fine of $500.

Chief among those companies that would likely be affected by the new ordinance would be the Lundin Mining Corporation. Lundin is paying $44.4 million to the Marquette County Road Commission for upgrades to county roads leading into the city to transport nickel and copper ore from the Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill.

None of the eight trucking routes proposed in the new ordinance include Sugarloaf Avenue and Wright Street east of McClellan Avenue, segments Lundin needs for its transportation route.

In addition, a segment along Wright Street from McClellan Avenue to the western border of the city – which would be designated as a trucking route – would restrict commercial truck traffic to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Lundin spokesman Dan Blondeau said Monday the company had just heard about the ordinance and would decline to comment until it knows more about it.

Earlier this year, a mining company official said mine-related truck traffic should equal about 3 percent of current traffic volume on Wright Street and 20 percent of the street’s commercial traffic.

A provision in the ordinance allows deliveries, pick-ups or service calls within the city by using the shortest route from or to a truck route, but those commercial trucks would have to enter the city and leave the city on a designated truck route.

The ordinance would allow the city manager to grant written permits in special cases that would otherwise violate the ordinance. The permits would be in effect for no more than five days and allow only one round trip.

In addition, the city manager could grant written special permits for longer periods of time for special projects or in conjunction with special use permits granted by the Marquette Zoning Board.

By resolution, the city commission would set fees for those permits.

In a memo to the mayor and city commission, Vajda said, “With the completion of the Wright Street upgrade, McClellan Avenue and Seventh Street extensions and South Front Street roundabout, traffic patterns in the city of Marquette have undergone significant change.”

“The city commission authorized a comprehensive traffic study to review the long-term impacts on city plans, zoning and economic growth,” Vajda wrote. “In addition, the city of Marquette has been engaged in dialogue with surrounding jurisdictions and interests regarding regional needs and coordination.”

Vajda said those efforts “remain ongoing and requirements have been forwarded to the state Legislature of the State of Michigan which address short- and long-term needs.

“The city must manage the impacts of traffic in a manner consistent with public safety and the welfare of taxpayers and residents, within existing financial constraints and operating needs and in accordance with economic development plans mandated by the City Charter.”

Vajda added the proposed ordinance “addresses to the maximum extent possible, routes which address this holistic need.”

In August, the city commission began a public discussion with hopes of Lundin agreeing to fund some improvements to city streets.

Commissioners at that time expressed hope the city and surrounding municipalities could also succeed in plans to build an alternative trucking route bypassing the city.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.