The proposed changes include reducing the number of lanes, narrowing the streets, reducing the speed limit to 25 or 30 mph, adding landscape medians, sidewalks, a bike lane and angled parking for future businesses.
The properties at that intersection are all zoned for commercial use, and it's expected that businesses will someday occupy the area. The township owns none of the surrounding land. The only areas affected would be in the public right of way.
Any changes would require the blessing of the Michigan Department of Transportation, which oversees M-104, a state road.
On Monday night, the Township Board listened to a presentation from street design specialist Keith Tianen of Pinckney-based Downtown Solutions.
“There are several vacant parcels that will likely see development over the next 10 years,” Township Manager Gordon Gallagher said. “The board wanted to look at a sub-area plan on what that intersection should look like 10 years from now.”
Gallagher said the slowing of traffic would make the area more pedestrian friendly. Tianen said pedestrians currently have to cross a 60-foot span to get across M-104, and he suggests narrowing that.
“For pedestrians, it reduces the street crossing distance in the danger zone from 60 feet to 33 feet,” Tianen said. “It is, of course, improved safety by adding to aisles. And it's overall improved safety for pedestrians because motorists can stop much more quickly.”
Tianen said that at 25 mph, the intersection could accommodate the same volume of vehicles, but much more safely.
“At 50 mph, it's harder for a motorist who wants to make a left turn,” he said.
The new plan would include a left-turn area that could accommodate up to three cars.
Tianen followed the township’s Master Plan in proposing two- to three-story buildings with upper-story residences and offices and first-level businesses.
Besides the angled parking, the plan includes sidewalks and a bike lane. The narrowed roads would stretch about 500 feet from the intersection in all four directions, Tianen said.
Gallagher said since it's the first traffic light as visitors enter Spring Lake Township from the east, the intersection could also serve as a decorative gateway.
“It kind of feels like an entryway to the Lakeshore,” he said. “Part of the question we've asked was — should this be more of an entryway, a 'you've arrived' kind of feeling?”
Tianen suggested that the township form a corridor improvement authority and tax increment finance district to help fund the project.
No cost estimates are available at this time, according to Gallagher, who noted that this is purely the exploration phase, and any such project would not be entered into without much community discussion.
“If the board likes the idea, I would see us having some additional community engagement to see how the community feels about it,” he said. “Then I would see some engagement with MDOT. We're still at the concept stage.”
Township Trustee Jerry Rabideau said he thinks residents will be surprised with the concept.
“I think that's shock and awe for a lot of Spring Lake Township to see that drastic of a change,” he said. “But, I like it. It's interesting.”
Township Supervisor John Nash agreed.
“I think it's good,” he said.