By Scott Sullivan
Interest hasn’t died in replacing the Lakeshore Drive dead end between Wiley Road and M-89, created by a 1986 washout, with one-lane emergency access for rescue vehicles.
The Saugatuck Township Board May 1 appointed trustee Stacey Aldrich, planning commission members Bill Rowe and Ed Welk, a Saugatuck Township Fire District representative and perhaps others to pursue re-establishing the 700-foot missing link.
STFD Chief Greg Janik, noting response times south of the washout take 42 percent longer — roughly four minutes — than would a more-direct route, brought his concerns to the township three years ago.
Most residents attending a Sept. 27, 2017, public meeting opposed re-establishing the north-south Allegan County primary Lakeshore Drive roadway alongside Lake Michigan, instead favoring a one-lane emergency access across the stretch, four lots wide, now missing.
“I’m not in favor of restoring the road,” Janik told them. “I am in favor of establishing emergency access. No one expects to have a fire or heart attack, but when they happen you want fast access.”
The fire chief reiterated that to the board May 1. “We don’t need 20 feet wide,” Janik said. “Just a 12-foot-wide two-track, maybe with gates to which first-responders would have keys.”
Welk, on behalf of the private Lake Michigan Shoreline Association, wrote the township April 16 stating members would like to renew those discussions of an access which might also allow foot and bike traffic.
A Feb. 19, 2018, Prein & Newhoff engineering study commissioned by the township offered four alternatives:
1) An existing road and rear parcel trail route, which would cost an estimated $345,000. It and the next two options include 35-percent for contingency, administrative, engineering and legal costs. They do not include property acquisition or compensation costs.
2) A road extension and rear parcel trail route, costing an estimated $435,000 based upon the above conditions.
3) A lakefront parcel route, costing an estimated $245,000, same conditions.
4) Re-engineering the existing right-of-way. No cost provided.
“A combination of paved pathway and grass pavers was assumed to provide both non-motorized and emergency access where ‘new access trail’ is called for,” the Prein study noted.
“A typical cross-section was assumed as a 10-foot-wide paved asphalt path with an additional 8 feet of grass paver section on each side,” it continued.
“The road extension alternative assumes a 30-foot paved section and cul-de-sac. A 40 to 45 foot easement is assumed necessary to accommodate grading and drainage for these sections.
“All estimates include traffic control bollards, grading, restoration, clearing and drainage improvements. The final design and layout of any route will have to be closely reviewed with local emergency access requirements for vehicle loads, clearances, elevation grades and turning radii to accomplish emergency response goals,” the Prein study said.
A 12-foot-wide two-track, as described by Janik, stands to bring down Prein’s cost estimates considerably.
Potential funding sources, the engineers’ study said, might be:
- Michigan Department of Transportation Act 51 dollars allocated to the Allegan County Road Commission for general road improvements;
- A township street/road millage;
- Special assessment district assigning taxes to benefiting properties.
- Township allocation by the board for projects providing a public benefit;
- Special allocation by the Allegan County Commission for public projects;
- Michigan discretionary funds through various agencies. Local legislators, Prein advises, may be able to help identify additional state sources;
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund recreational land-acquisition and -development grants provided with a local match;
- Federal Coastal Zone Management Program grants, with a local match;
- State, federal and private grants;
- Vacated right-of-way alternatives.
The County Road Commission, engineers note, has in the past investigated funding alternatives to repair the washout and concluded no programs were available to restore the current road right-of-way.
“Each alternative,” wrote Prein, “depends on the willingness of private property owners in the immediate area to grant easements. The various alternatives provide different incentives for owners who would be asked to grant easements.
“Alternatives 1 and 2 provide good long-term solutions for recreational non-motorized and emergency access. Alternative 2 appears to offer the greatest incentive, but at a higher construction cost and with more complex easements necessary.
“If the township seeks to pursue any of these alternatives further, discussions should be initiated with key property owners to determine their level of interest in the project,” Prein advises.
“Prior to these discussions the township should consider a strategy for obtaining easements and consult legal counsel on proposed easement language.
“The County Road Commission should be considered a partner in this effort and be consulted. Funding would mostly likely come from a combination of state grants, public (township and county) and private contributions,” the engineers’ study said.