TRAVERSE CITY — A look inside a new signal cabinet at the corner of Park and South Airport roads provides an apt image for Grand Traverse County’s changing road system.
It’s complex, said Road Commission Manager Brad Kluczynski, and everything has to work together for traffic to flow smoothly.
“We have all of our signals timed by our consultants, we are actively in the process of programming our controllers, and then we’ll make some runs with staff to see how they’re behaving,” Kluczynski said.
The new signal cabinets are packed with hardware like processors and conflict monitors. These are designed to work with cameras and sensors on the traffic lights themselves, to adjust the timing of light changes on the fly.
Kluczynski will give an update on the new system’s progress at the Road Commission’s meeting Thursday.
He said he’s happy with the product and is looking forward to test-driving it once it’s fully installed, though that won’t be for a few weeks yet.
One signal installed months ago was taken out by a hit-and-run driver and had to be replaced, he said. Others are waiting for the Hammond Road construction project to be completed before they’re installed.
“After that, we’ll be ready to start putting in the SCOOT system,” Kluczynski said.
SCOOT stands for Split Cycle and Offset Optimizing Technique, which is another way of saying that new hardware and software in the signal boxes will allow traffic lights to not only communicate with the signal boxes, but communicate with each other, too.
Funding for the project — $1.6 million — was provided by the state’s gas tax, as previously reported.
Recent complications for Kluczynski and road commissioners go beyond planned road work detours and the timing of technology upgrades, as the Sept. 24 meeting agenda shows.
A proposed road millage renewal on the ballot Nov. 3 isn’t on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting, yet a former official said he’s certain the issue will be raised.
John Nelson, a road commissioner from 2010 to 2016, is scheduled to speak at 7:15 p.m. about the East-West Corridor Transportation Study, which he said merges into a decision on the millage.
“To me, my way of getting their attention is to come out with a ‘no’ vote on the millage,” Nelson said. “I supported it both times before, because the money was used for road maintenance. But a bridge study I think is an irresponsible use of the money.”
Road Commissioners are appointed by a vote of the Grand Traverse County board, and Nelson served a six-year term from 2010 to 2016. He said he wanted to continue in the role, but the board voted instead to appoint Jason Gillman.
Nelson said he supports the signal optimization work, as well as plans for several roundabouts on well-traveled roads like Hammond, Keystone and Beitner.
But he has spoken out against a new bridge across the Boardman River, or the expenditure of funds on a study for such a project. He recently joined with like-minded residents from Traverse City and Old Mission Peninsula, who founded a new advocacy group, Citizens for Accountable Road Spending.
The group created a website, wrongwayroads.com, to urge voters to reject the millage. A recent vote by Peninsula Township trustees followed suit.
Road Commissioner Marc McKellar attended Grand Traverse County Commissioner’s remote special meeting Wednesday, which was scheduled to discuss pension debt and hazard pay.
“I know this is not what you were expecting today,” McKellar said, during public comment. “I would have liked to have done this in person so you could see my face and see how passionate I am about this.”
McKellar alerted the board to statements made by CARS members, which he said were not always factual. The so-called “bridge study,” he said, is actually a process mandated by the federal government for any entity which wants to apply for federal funds.
“We have no idea where they’re coming from and we have no idea why they’re talking about a bridge that hasn’t been designed or studied,” McKellar said. “They’re blurring the lines.”
Kluczynski and road commissioners have also questioned the fairness those in one township, seeking to hold back funds for road fixes in the county’s other 11 townships, the City of Traverse City, and the villages of Fife Lake and Kingsley.
Renewal of the current road millage will be a ballot question for county voters to decide in November, something current road officials say is needed to continue the progress made since 2012 in dramatically improving the county’s roads.
“We’ve held to the promises made to Grand Traverse voters who have given us their trust and have allowed us to reach a level of service that ranks eighth in the state of Michigan,” Kluczynski previously said.
The East-West Corridor Transportation Study Nelson plans to reference, was completed in 2018 and drew citizen input largely in support of a bridge, Kluczynski has said.
The goal of the study was to address growing traffic congestion in the county and Kluczynski has said the overwhelming message road officials received was, “build a bridge.”
Road millage funds collected since 2012 have largely been spent on road maintenance and improvement of the county’s existing road system, commission meeting minutes show.
The road commission meeting begins Thursday at 7 p.m. The public can attend remotely via Zoom, by entering ID 981-3257-5621 or by calling 312-626-6799 and entering the ID number.