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Hartman-Hammond bridge is top pick for new Boardman River crossing

Patrick Shea
Interlochen Public Radio

The Grand Traverse County Road Commission has chosen its preferred solution to traffic congestion south of Traverse City.

At a meeting in November, four options were presented to the public. Three included new construction projects, and the final was a “no build” scenario. On Wednesday, a consultant identified a bridge connecting Hartman and Hammond roads as the ideal project to improve the flow of crosstown traffic.

Widening the Cass Road bridge was ruled out, as was building a bridge at the former site of the Sabin Dam. Both alternatives were dismissed due to the would-be projects’ proximity to conservation areas.

A Hartman-Hammond bridge was contentious in the late 90s, when plans included excavating a corridor through high quality wetlands. But the concept being considered now is a different design.

The bridge would be elevated more than 70 feet in the air, and supported by concrete pylons. If constructed, it would stretch for 2,000 feet over the Boardman River and surrounding wetlands.

According to projection models, the bridge would reduce traffic on South Airport Road by 37%—more than 13,000 cars per day.

“A lot of people I know avoid Traverse City during peak time, because of traffic,” said Todd Davis, a transportation planner contracted by the road commission. “So I hope if this bridge gets built, I have a choice now that’s not sitting in gridlock.”

Grand Traverse County grew by 9.5% over the last decade, according to the US Census Bureau. Davis says the bridge is needed to accommodate a growing number of commuters.

The road commission and its contracted consultants will now begin the process of drafting an Environmental Impact Statement for the project, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. The impacts of construction will be weighed against the option of not building an additional crossing.

Patrick Shea was a natural resources reporter at Interlochen Public Radio. Before joining IPR, he worked a variety of jobs in conservation, forestry, prescribed fire and trail work. He earned a degree in natural resources from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, and his interest in reporting grew as he studied environmental journalism at the University of Montana's graduate school.