“Norvell Township stepped up to the plate and provided significant local matching funds for this important project. The township’s contribution helped secure the Transportation Alternative Program funds, and we are grateful for it.”
Sen. Michael Shirkey
By Matt Schepeler
It looks like the M-124 bike trail is going to get a little safer, as one local lawmaker and Norvell Township officials worked together to garner funding for its improvement.
Sen. Mike Shirkey recently announced that funding had been approved for a construction project next year to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians on Wamplers Lake Road (M-124) in Jackson County.
The $1.3 million Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) project will widen the paved shoulders on the road from four feet to eight feet from U.S. 12 to M-50, a 7.4-mile stretch.
“The Irish Hills, numerous lakes, Hayes State Park and Watkins Lake State Park — are all along this route, which means it is popular with locals and tourists alike and it is very busy,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “Expanding the paved bike and pedestrian lanes will increase safety for everyone on these shoulders.”
Residents have long complained about the safety of the bike path, dubbed the Friendship Trail, which is merely an extension of the shoulder of the state highway. In October of 2016, two local women – Mary Massengill and Debbie Patterson – were struck and killed by a vehicle while riding their bicycles on the trail, precipitating the move to make the trail safer.
Norvell Township supervisor Eric Johnson said he is excited about the project. “It is a great example of people coming together to solve a problem that had to be taken care of,” said the supervisor.
He noted that the local MDOT officials “have been great to work with,” facilitating the meetings and guiding them through the process.
A 2017 Road Safety Audit recommended widening the shoulders by up to four feet to provide an additional buffer between vehicular traffic and bicyclists. Other improvements in the project include upgrading street signing, pavement markings, and rumble strips to increase safety for all modes of transportation
The project is a shared investment of $1,137,822 from three sources: $659,368 in federal transportation alternative program funds, $455,129 from the Michigan Department of Transportation, and $23,325 from Norvell Township.
“The Michigan Department of Transportation is excited to partner with Norvell Township to improve safety and expand nonmotorized access along M-124,” said Kelby Wallace, manager of MDOT’s Jackson Transportation Service Center in a press release. “This project is a result of a strong partnership dedicated to the safety of all modes of transportation.”
Shirkey commended Norvell Township.
“Norvell Township stepped up to the plate and provided significant local matching funds for this important project,” Shirkey said. “The township’s contribution helped secure the transportation alternative program funds, and we are grateful for it.”
The TAP is a competitive grant program that uses federal transportation funds designated by Congress for specific activities that enhance the intermodal transportation system and provide safe alternative transportation options.
Construction on the project is set to begin in the spring or summer of 2019.