Why would anyone schedule track maintenance work right outside an already congested and troublesome entrance to a high school during a school week?
“We know it’s going to be a nightmare,” Grand Haven Area Public Schools Superintendent Andy Ingall said.
The railroad did it with little warning to Grand Haven schools, which would be majorly affected by it, and Grand Haven Township officials. Actually, they apparently only notified the Ottawa County Road Commission, which alerted the school system and township.
The railroad wants to reconstruct the grade crossing at Ferris Street just west of U.S. 31. If you’ve ever been there in the morning for the start of the day at Grand Haven High School — which is just a stone’s throw away from the crossing — or at the end of the school day, then you know how many cars and buses cross those tracks on their way in or out of the school campus.
But the thing is, school is not always in session. There are two and a half months during summer (which, by the way, is a better time of the year for any construction work in Michigan!) when the high school traffic is light. Close it for two weeks at that time, if you want. Or spring break week. But not when school is in session.
The work and road closure were incorrectly reported to take place during the week of Oct. 22. It is actually scheduled for the week of Oct. 29.
Big deal. Unless it is an emergency, one that the railroad can’t safely run on those tracks, then the project should be postponed until next summer. Or it should have been done before school started this fall.
“This construction and detour will have a huge impact on school traffic and will likely create significant delays and confusion at the Ferris and U.S. 31 intersection, especially during the morning,” Grand Haven Township Manager Bill Cargo said in his weekly township report Oct. 19. “The township has tried to have the railroad reschedule the work — so far, no luck.”
Ingall said the school district was not asked by the railroad company for consultation.
“They just made the decision and we learned about it in real time, just like everybody,” he told the Tribune for a story Oct. 20. “We’re very disappointed about that.”
Ingall said the school district is working with the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office to convince Michigan Shore Railroad to reconsider the work for another time.
As of now, Ferris Street will be completely closed off to traffic at the crossing starting Monday, Oct. 29, and is expected to be closed for one week. A signed detour will follow U.S. 31 north to Hayes Street, west to Lakeshore Drive and then south to Ferris Street.
Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Matt DeYoung, Mark Brooky, Josh VanDyke and Duncan MacLean. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to [email protected] or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.