Council talks Second-Third street connector

ISHPEMING – Members of the Ishpeming City Council will spend the next couple months mulling over which of the two options presented by engineers at Wednesday’s council meeting is the best way to connect the city’s Second and Third streets.

The street connection is being planned in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Transportation’s intentions in 2016 to block off access to US-41 from Third Street and install a roundabout on the highway at Second Street, in order to curb the relatively high number of accidents that occur at those two intersections.

Because Third Street is the main artery leading to downtown Ishpeming, the city plans to connect it to Second Street south of the railroad overpass, by constructing either an S-curve or a second roundabout.

The presentation by Steve Wright of OHM Advisors – the city’s engineering firm for the project – showed very preliminary designs for both options and discussed the pros and cons of each.

Wright said that while the S-curve would be easier to plow and maintain in the winter, it wouldn’t do much to reduce the speeds of people heading southbound into the city. The roundabout on the other hand, while being a bit more challenging to plow, would cut traffic speeds considerably, making it safer.

City Attorney David Savu asked if Option B – the roundabout – would only require negotiating with one of the two property owners south of the railroad overpass and north of Bessemer Street. Department of Public Works Superintendent Jon Kangas said yes, that was the biggest difference between the two designs.

“I would guess that OHM probably hasn’t gotten to a cost estimating phase because we’re so early in the process yet, but I would think, ultimately, that has to be part of the decision,” Kangas said. “Because if Option B is a little more expensive to build, but that cost is offset by the lack of need to acquire a portion of the second parcel, maybe it changes your consideration. But if that triangular piece (of the second property) isn’t that expensive and Option A is much more affordable, maybe it’s an easy choice.”

Wright agreed. “That’s the big question right now,” he said. “Not knowing how much that costs is the biggest unknown out there.”

Councilwoman Claudia Demarest asked if there was any action to be taken on the subject. City Manager Mark Slown said it was just a presentation to let the council know where they are in the process, as well as to “solicit any input from you and from the public.”

Councilman Mike Tonkin asked how the project was being paid for. Kangas said the city anticipated that a majority of the project funding would come from an MDOT Safety Grant, with the potential for obtaining some small urban grants as supplementary funding. Kangas said that because “the whole idea of this project is to provide a safe connection from Third to Second,” which of the two designs the council chooses might dictate the amount of funding the city can obtain for the project.

People wishing to give their input can go to ishpemingcity.org/contact-us/ or call 485-1091.

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401. His email address is zjay@miningjournal.net.