Trucking debate

MARQUETTE – The Marquette Township Board has invited the public, elected officials, administrators and commercial trucking interests to a work session set for Tuesday, hoping the forum discussion might lead to commissioning a regional transportation study and eventually a joint regional trucking ordinance.

“The only practical way to avoid creating an unlawful and untenable situation is for all the local municipalities to participate together in a coordinated study and implementation of compatible truck route regulations, to assure that reasonable through routes and reasonable access to U.S. 41 are provided,” Marquette Township Supervisor Dennis Liimatta said Wednesday in a letter to interested parties.

The work session will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Marquette Township Community Center at 1000 Commerce Drive. The meeting comes one day prior to the Marquette City Commission holding a special meeting to consider adopting a controversial new trucking ordinance.

The proposed ordinance – which will be considered for adoption after a public hearing set for 7 p.m. Wednesday in commission chambers at city hall – designates eight trucking routes within the city and restricts commercial trucking elsewhere for vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds.

“As you are aware, the city of Marquette is proposing to enact a restrictive truck ordinance within the city limits that will have impacts to neighboring municipalities through redistribution of commercial traffic from currently existing routes,” Liimatta said. “While we understand it is our collective responsibility to enact ordinances that provide for the safety and protection of our citizens, we also recognize that none of us operate in a vacuum and that many of our goals are tied together for mutual benefit. That includes the ability to carry out commerce within our region.”

The most controversial aspect of the proposed ordinance is its lack of providing a trucking route through the city from Marquette County Road 550 – a north-south route used by commercial truckers heading to locations north of the city, including Big Bay.

If the ordinance is adopted, commercial haulers ranging from miners and loggers to propane haulers to those delivering food and beverages would not have a designated trucking connection into or out of the city via County Road 550.

“The proposed ordinance is shaping up to be a battle between trucking interests and the city of Marquette,” Liimatta said. “Michigan court cases have limited municipal authority to truck route ordinances that are ‘reasonable.’ “

State, county, township and city government officials were invited to the work session, along with some local timber, mining and gravel interests and others.

Citing legal precedents, Liimatta said Michigan courts have ruled trucking routes are not deemed “reasonable” when they result in “noncontiguous routes,” “creating a ‘chaotic patchwork quilt’ of truck routes.”

“In other words, the reasonableness of any truck route ordinance adopted by the city will be impacted by its interaction with the existing and future truck routes designated by surrounding townships and the (county) road commission,” Liimatta said. “If the city’s truck routes are incompatible with those selected by the townships or the county, the city runs a serious risk of having its ordinance invalidated as unreasonable.”

Liimatta said if all or part of the existing truck routes on the city streets were funded with federal money, the city cannot deny reasonable access by commercial motor vehicles on those streets to U.S. 41. He said those laws are enforced by the state and federal departments of transportation.

“Instead of unilaterally implementing the currently proposed ordinance, we encourage the city to join with Marquette Charter Township and other surrounding municipalities in conducting a transportation study to determine the optimal routes for conveying through truck traffic through our greater community,” Liimatta said.

The township board asked Liimatta to invite all interested parties to join in the regional forum to consider the possibility of commissioning a regional transportation study, perhaps leading to a joint regional trucking ordinance.

In a recent $19.6 million white paper request to state lawmakers for funding area transportation needs, $500,000 was sought to conduct a regional transportation study. No funding has yet been provided for the study. The request also included $8.5 million to implement the study’s recommendations.

The white paper was crafted by Marquette County Road Commission engineer-manager Jim Iwanicki on behalf of several entities, including the city and the township.

Marquette City Manager Bill Vajda said he will attend the work session.

“We pledge continued dialog and believe that if all parties share patience, commitment and caution that we can find a workable solution,” Vajda said. “We remain committed to the regional framework outlined in the special funding request white paper.”

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is