By Brian Freiberger
With over 20,000 vehicles traveling through Schoolcraft on US 131 each day, why isn’t this village a customer destination?
The answer: speed, safety and perhaps a lack of interest.
That was the conclusion of several village and state officials walking along busy Grand street to discuss the Vision Improvement Plan, proposed to provide the village with a business-friendly and slower-paced environment.
Portage-based Wightman and Associates proposed a 12-foot wide landscaped median from Cass Street to Eliza to help slo traffic, according to Wightman engineer Jordan Parker. Grand Street, five lanes and 76 feet wide from curb to curb, is owned by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
In 2005, a similar landscape median in the downtown area was removed by MDOT. Removal was to provide space for new 14-foot wide sidewalks through the downtown, said Village Manager Cheri Lutz.
A public workshop in late August or early September will be scheduled to reveal the Vision Improvement Plan.
Parker also said the plan includes the development of Cass Street into a commercial district.
The biggest safety concern is being able to cross the street safely from one side to another, according to Village President Keith Gunnett. “You don’t understand it until you walk it,” said Gunnett. Traffic signals at two marked crosswalks on opposite end of the half-mile downtown allow 20 seconds for residents to cross the street.
The separation between the narrow sidewalk and the road is just two feet. “You can feel the cars when they go by,” said State Rep. Brandt Iden during the walk. “I’ve walked down these streets and talked to a lot of people that have property here. For the business community to grow we must find a way to slow the traffic down and help people cross the streets.”
“Traffic scares off people who want to use the village. Right now, 131 is a divide right down the middle of Schoolcraft, and we need to do something to make this community safer for all,” said State Sen. Margaret O’Brien.