This concept drawing shows how Otsego hopes to change traffic through downtown. Officials intend to test some of what this shows by repainting lines on M-89 restricting traffic to three lanes.

Otsego to practice downtown change this springtime

By: 
Daniel Pepper, Staff Writer

Otsego city officials plan a test run of the different configuration of traffic downtown this spring and are now considering including an extended turn lane for the east side of the city.

City manager Thad Beard said the second public meeting about proposed downtown changes had gone well, from his perspective.

“I think there was more information and feedback from people who actually live here,” Beard said.

The plan involves cutting M-89 from five lanes to three lanes through downtown in an effort to make shopping at downtown businesses more attractive. The idea would also install “bumpouts” and reverse angle parking. The city wants to do the work soon so as to have everything ready before the Michigan Department of Transportation resurfaces M-89 and does sidewalk work.

Beard said they would be able to use a test run to find out what effects some of the changes had on traffic patterns.

“We can do a trial run and test it,” he said. “I think that can give us an idea.”

Once the snow melts, the city will do temporary restriping to change M-89 from five lanes to three lanes and to extend the center turn lane further east, though Beard said at the Monday, Feb. 16, city commission meeting they didn’t know the exact cost.

“We’ll proceed with that, unless it’s astronomical,” he said. “I don’t like spending the money, but I think it will be money well spent.”

The idea of a turn lane on the eastern side of town, especially along the area near Dix Street where M-89 curves was well received at the meeting.

Beard said, “We had tremendous feedback on that.”

City commissioner Kathy Misner said she was often very uncomfortable turning left in that area because of the speed of traffic and the lack of a turn lane.

“I love the idea of turn going all along there,” Misner said.

The trial striping would allow the city to see how much of a problem the two main worries expressed by the citizens were. Beard said the main things he’d heard was concern more people would avoid downtown and cut through the residential streets and that fewer  lanes would really slow down traffic.

The state’s estimates suggest that based on traffic counts, losing two lanes should only slow down traffic by an average of nine seconds, but the city will be able to see what happens in the real world.

“We’ll be able to gather the data and see if it’s really a problem,” Beard said.

Also as part of the project, the city plans to move some of the trees downtown to better line up with local businesses.

“Where they are, several are blocking signs and some are right in front of the entrance,” he said.

In addition to the traffic lanes, the plan is to also restripe only part of the downtown parking to the reverse angle parking.

Misner said she thought it was a misconception that it would harder.

“When you parallel park, you’ve got to stop and back in anyway,” she said.

With the downtown much busier lately, Beard said, it was no longer anywhere near as common to be able to pull right in to a spot, in his opinion.

He said he’d had a meeting with Otsego school officials and they were satisfied the downtown changes wouldn’t negatively affect busses trying to turn at M-89 and Farmer Street.

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