County, township support road project, seek lower speed limit

BIG BAY – The Powell Township Board has voiced support for the Marquette County Road Commission’s plans for rebuilding an 11-mile stretch of County Road 510 and the Triple A Road to the Eagle Mine.

The road commission will hold a public information meeting on the construction work at 7 p.m. today at the Powell Township Hall in Big Bay. The road commission is then scheduled to consider approving the plans at its Dec. 16 meeting in Ishpeming.

In a letter to the Marquette County Board, Powell Township Supervisor Darlene Turner said the road commission’s revised plans following the current alignment of the Triple A Road will have the least amount of impact.

Turner said the plan has tried to use corporate lands as much as possible, avoiding private landowners.

“Preserving our natural beauty and resources are very important for our area,” Turner wrote. “This has been a difficult adjustment for Powell Township. Noted for being (an) outdoor enthusiast paradise, we have to learn how to incorporate the future with economical development.”

The Lundin Mining Corp. – which is funding the $20.8 million construction project – will use the route to truck ore from the mine to the Humboldt Mill. Completion of the project is tentatively scheduled for next fall. Lundin plans to be ready to produce nickel and copper from the Eagle Mine by late next year, with full production slated for 2015.

Turner said the township agrees with the road commission’s plans for design speed.

“We support the 55-mile (per hour) speed design with larger sweeping curves and longer sloping of hills, creating a safer road,” Turner wrote. “We hope the speed limit would be set at 45 miles an hour.”

Turner said safety for recreational and commercial traffic is the board’s main concern.

On Tuesday, the Marquette County Board voted unanimously to back that idea.

Commissioner Steven Pence made a motion which asked “the road commission and all other officials who have some role in determining the speed,” that we recognize the road should be designed for 55 mph, “but the speed limit be set somewhat lower, as suggested by Ms. Turner and her board, at 45 mph.”

“I think this road project in their township has been a little controversial,” Pence said. “But I think we finally are getting some direction from the local officials.”

The township board did not support slowing down the project approval process to allow more time for additional public comment.

Last month, the county board urged the road commission to use its meeting tonight to take public comment on plans previously released, prior to the latest version of engineering documents, which were released Nov. 15.

The road commission declined to do so.

Several people who have opposed the project and the Eagle Mine suggested slowing down the process, allowing more time to study the plans and formulate thoughtful comments.

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