Powell board concerned over truck route plan

BIG BAY – The Powell Township Board plans to attend meetings in Marquette Township and the city of Marquette next week to help determine what the panel should do in response to a controversial new trucking ordinance proposed by the city that would greatly affect the community of Big Bay.

“The proposed ordinance would stop all truck traffic to County Road 550,” Powell Township Supervisor Darlene Turner said. “This is the only year around safe route for our township. Cutting off all goods and service to our community would cause great insurmountable hardship.”

The proposed ordinance – which is scheduled to be considered for adoption by the Marquette City Commission after a public hearing set for 7 p.m. Oct. 30 – designates eight trucking routes within the city and restricts commercial trucking elsewhere for vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds.

The most controversial aspect of the 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 several locations north of the city, including Big Bay.

If the ordinance is adopted, commercial haulers ranging from 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.

“County Road 550 has always been the only access Powell Township has had through the city of Marquette,” Turner said in an email. “For one to be able to shut out a community is very unreasonable, to even be considered.”

The main company that would be affected by the new ordinance would be the Lundin Mining Corporation, which 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. Construction has been under way since June. Improvements to County Road 550 will cost $23.5 million. Production at the mine is scheduled to begin late next year.

None of the eight trucking routes proposed in the new ordinance include Sugarloaf Avenue and Wright Street east of McClellan Avenue, segments that lead to County Road 550, which Lundin needs for its transportation route.

In addition, a segment of 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.

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.

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

A provision in 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.

However, the city manager could also 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.

These permits could be granted to Lundin and other haulers under certain conditions. Fees would be set by the city commission.

Marquette Township will facilitate a work session on transportation and trucking at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in its community center at 1000 Commerce Drive. Officials are hoping to commission a regional traffic study, which could lead to the crafting of a joint resolution addressing trucking routes and other concerns.

“(The Powell) Township Board has not done any formal action at this time,” Turner said. “The board will be attending the work session and public hearing. Then will decide on what action we should take.”

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