Trucking deal

MARQUETTE – Under a tentative agreement between the Lundin Mining Corp. and the city of Marquette, a trucking route bypassing the city may be developed from Marquette County Road 550 to Wright Street, largely using an existing Marquette Board of Light and Power road.

“This is a deal that we’re happy with and Lundin is happy with,” Marquette City Commission member Mike Coyne said Tuesday.

Lundin needs a trucking route connecting County Road 550 and U.S. 41 to help get nickel and copper ore from the Eagle Mine to the Humboldt Mill. A recent trucking ordinance the city had proposed would not provide any designated County Road 550 connection for trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds.

In general, the “Hydro Plant Route” bypass would go west off County Road 550 near the city and Marquette Township border and then turn south along a utility road to reach Wright Street, west of Ontario Street.

The bypass plan would shorten the trucking route and would avoid the corner of Wright Street and Sugar Loaf Avenue, diverting heavy haulers away from Northern Michigan University. The plan would also alleviate the need for the city to find $10.1 million to improve several streets for Lundin’s trucking route, including Wright Street and Sugar Loaf Avenue.

The bypass would be about 1.3 miles long.

Trucks reaching Wright Street from the bypass would have the option of turning right to reach U.S. 41 through Marquette Township or turning left, heading to U.S. 41 via McClellan Avenue.

Coyne said the plan is contingent upon approval from the Marquette Board of Light and Power, which began early discussions of the issue Tuesday night.

City officials met with BLP representatives Monday.

“Pretty much, we can’t do this unless they say, ‘OK, we can begin to look at this,’ ” Coyne said.

Monday, the city commission voted to postpone consideration of its controversial trucking ordinance for 90 days. Coyne said that time will be used to see if the bypass route plan is viable.

There are several exploratory issues involved, including questions of engineering and properties located in Marquette Township.

“If they (BLP) agree to pursue this, if it does, it gives us a solution, admittedly not permanent, but then we don’t have to deal with this truck ordinance like it is because it will be a manner of avoiding the city,” Coyne said. “Lundin, they’ve got a problem, we’ve got a problem. I think this is a way to solve it and I don’t think the truck ordinance is an issue now, period.”

Board of Light and Power Chairman Edward Angeli said that by consensus Tuesday the panel decided to allow the city and Lundin to explore the route.

“No formal action was taken because there was nothing to act on,” Angeli said.

Angeli said if the idea proves viable, the city will likely return to the BLP for approval of a specific plan. He said there would be many hurdles involved beyond the control of the BLP.

“Basically, the BLP is willing to do anything within our framework to help the city,” Angeli said.

Paul McRae, senior vice president for projects with Lundin, said the exact routing of the northern section of the bypass route has yet to be determined.

“The route as was shown (on a map) wasn’t quite right, the northern part, because it shows the route actually intersecting with Fly Ash Road,” McRae said. “That gets really tough because We Energy has a bunch of permitting issues, or federal permits, and it’s a private road and that’s pretty tough. What is probably more viable is to look at something that is south of the (railroad) tracks. This is something…we’re going to be studying.”

Roads would need to be upgraded.

“There’s a bunch of work to be done,” said McRae. “It is early days.”

McRae said the basic tenets of the agreement with the city have been worked out and more details will be released soon, including whether Lundin would fund road improvements for the bypass.

“That’s what we’re working together to determine just what the costs are and what we can do,” McRae said. “The first steps are the investigations and we’ll be supporting that. But there’ll be a memorandum coming out later this week, a communique that will lay all that out.”

Coyne detailed the route and some details of the agreement Tuesday at a meeting of parties interested in working together to find long-term solutions to regional transportation issues.

“This is my opinion, that present (proposed) ordinance is dead, that’s not going to happen,” Coyne said. “And that takes some of the pressure off of all of you. It certainly won’t happen if the partnership plan that we have for a bypass to the city will work.”

However, Coyne admits permitting and other challenges lie ahead.

“We have no illusion that it’s going to happen tomorrow,” he said.

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