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City Commission approves reconstruction of Brown Street without narrowing


Commissioners also discussed bicycle safety at the meeting


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Commissioners discuss bicycle safety at the Mount Pleasant City Commission meeting on May 13 in Mount Pleasant City Hall.

After hearing concerns from residents and business owners, the Mount Pleasant City Commission chose not to narrow Brown Street during its scheduled construction.

Commissioners discussed the reconstruction of Brown Street and bicycle safety during the May 13 City Commission Meeting at City Hall.

City Manager Nancy Ridley said the section of Brown Street between Broadway Street and North Drive is scheduled for reconstruction in 2020. A plan was created to narrow the street from 40 feet to 37 feet to comply with a local ordinance. It would also replace the curb, gutter and sewer line and add parallel parking on both sides of the street. Although the Non-Motorized Plan ordinance applies to new residential streets, it doesn't require existing streets to comply. However, Ridley said this was an opportunity to change Brown Street to comply with the zoning ordinance. She also said making lanes narrower would cause drivers to go slower, increasing safety for pedestrians.

Community members voiced concerns about narrowing the street because Brown Street is a high-traffic route for school buses and emergency vehicles. McLaren Central Michigan Hospital and Pullen Elementary School are both located on Brown Street.

Martin Tursky, president and CEO of McLaren Central Michigan, wrote a letter to Ridley explaining why he didn't want Brown Street to be narrowed. 

"Brown Street serves as a primary artery for emergency traffic to reach the hospital, and narrowing this road may lead to these vehicles having difficulty reaching their destination as quickly as possible," Tursky wrote. "Keeping Brown Street at its current width will ensure that emergency traffic is able to pass without obstruction."

Other community members said it is already difficult backing out of driveways on Brown Street during pickup and drop-off time at Pullen. Residents believe making the road narrower would make the street more congested during those times.

Commissioners unanimously approved the design for Brown Street that keeps it at 40 feet wide. The street will have 10-foot lanes, parking on both sides and edge striping for bicyclists.

Beyond approving that motion, Commissioner Tony Kulick said he wants to repeal the Non-Motorized Plan and use it instead as an advisory document.

"We don't seem to want to abide by (the Non-Motorized Plan)," he said. "We decided to leave Maple Street wide, and this road I think should be left wide. With the fiasco on Pickard Street, I think we are just bogging ourselves down with this as an ordinance."

Vice Mayor Lori Gillis agreed. 

"I don't think we should be using a document as a cookie-cutter for every street we redo," Gillis said. "I think we should take every instance individually as a unique throughway or artery and examine its possibility for bike lanes… We have a zoning ordinance, yet a lot of our building that happens in the city does not fit that ordinance."

There was no motion to repeal the Non-Motorized Plan at this meeting, but Mayor William Joseph said he will add it to the agenda of a future meeting.

Bicycle safety was also discussed at the meeting. Commissioner Kulick wanted to remind commissioners and audience members that Michigan enacted a law last September that requires drivers to give bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing. As a cyclist himself, Kulick said he is often crowded by cars on city streets.

Gillis had similar concerns from a motorist's perspective. She said she often sees bicyclists ignoring stop signs and road markings. She called for law enforcement to begin enforcing bicycle laws to make sure everyone is safe on roads.

"Being that we are trying to accommodate bicyclists throughout Mount Pleasant, I would like to see them also follow the rules of the road," she said. "In the future, if there tend to be more bicyclists on the road, I as a driver will know what they are going to do instead of guessing what they are going to do."

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