City to detail trucking pact

MARQUETTE – The city of Marquette is expected to announce Friday details of an agreement with the Lundin Mining Corp. regarding trucking issues related to Lundin’s use of city streets.

A Marquette City Commission transportation subcommittee, composed of commissioners Mike Coyne and Sara Cambensy and Mayor Pro Tem Fred Stonehouse, has been working with Lundin for months to craft an agreement that focuses on safety improvement and maintenance needs in the existing trucking corridor.

The subcommittee and Lundin reached an agreement in March and had scheduled an April 8 work session, but that session was postponed until Monday.

The commission held a Monday work session with Lundin officials to hear about the agreement. City Manager Bill Vajda said the Monday work session was geared toward background discussion, with the hope the commission will address the issue at its Monday meeting.

Mayor Robert Niemi requested the agreement be put on the city website (www.mqtcty.org) before the full commission agenda is published.

Vajda said the transportation subcommittee’s follow-up work will involve issues beyond the agreement.

“This is one very small, discreet part of solving that broader policy, that interlocal policy issue,” he said. “Although this might come to closure on Monday, none of the rest of those issues will be resolved. There won’t be a new traffic ordinance on Monday. There won’t be a bypass solution on Monday. Those things still need to be worked out and resolved.”

Lundin wants to haul nickel and copper ore from the Eagle Mine in Michigamme Township to the Humboldt Mill in Humboldt Township. Mining officials had been concerned over a restrictive city trucking ordinance, proposed in late 2013 but held in abeyance, that would not have provided a way for Eagle Mine trucks and other commercial haulers to connect travel along Marquette County Road 550 with U.S. 41 via city streets.

However, city officials have been concerned over the wear and tear on city streets caused by trucks, with limited city funding available.

Increased mine truck traffic was expected to represent about 3 percent of commercial truck traffic along the Eagle Mine trucking route throughout the city, which includes Sugar Loaf Avenue to Wright Street, connecting with U.S. 41 via County Road HQ.

“We were faced with a problem of a mine with nowhere to go with their product, and the city saying, ‘no, you cannot come through,'” Coyne said. “In other words, Lundin was faced with an issue. They could not get from point A to point B. And if they did this, it would basically bankrupt us.”

Coyne said Lundin has met, in the agreement it presented, what the city originally asked: to consider safety, quality of life and expenses for probable road damage, plus continue a commitment for a bypass, with the company having the financial incentives to do so.

Cambensy said streets that will see increased truck traffic already need overlays.

“If you’re going to double the heavy truck traffic, it’s a serious concern, and how do we pay for it?” Cambensy said.

The goal is for a long-term solution to be solidified within three years, she said.

Commissioner Don Ryan said the agreement “opens the door” to the long-term option.

“There will be plenty of opportunity for additional public input in this process,” Ryan said.

Paul McRae, Lundin senior vice president of projects, said, “As has been said by the city, our long-term goal is also a bypass for all sorts of reasons. When the agreement comes out, I think you’ll see how the agreement is structured to support that objective.”

Matt Johnson, Lundin external relations manager, said the issue is full of complexities and understanding the goals and interests of the parties involved.

“And that’s why this process has taken so long,” Johnson said. “And it will continue. This isn’t the end of it.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net. John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.