M-29, local roadways under discussion for St. Clair council

St. Clair City Council held a special meeting Monday to discuss concerns over M-29. (Andrew Jowett | Times Herald)

St. Clair City Council held a special meeting Monday to discuss concerns over M-29. (Andrew Jowett | Times Herald)

By Tony Wittkowski | City Reporter | The Times Herald

Roads have been a large issue for St. Clair.

St. Clair City Council spoke at length over M-29 and the conditions of their local roads in a special meeting Monday.

St. Clair Mayor Bill Cedar said it will be the first of several meetings to come in the next few months on roads.

Council members were given a county survey on the portion of M-29 that runs through St. Clair and addressed residents’ concerns including the speed limits and pedestrian crosswalks.

One of the main observations was the need for a higher police presence.

“I read (the survey) this weekend, and from what I’ve read, a lot of this could be alleviated if we had more police patrolling,” said council member Jane Krebs.

St. Clair Police chief Rick Jefferson was in attendance for the meeting and said his department wrote almost 200 tickets along M-29 in 2014.

“Just because you get pulled over, doesn’t mean you are going to get a ticket,” Jefferson said. “Speeding is a problem everywhere, not just St. Clair.”

Jefferson said some cities have mounted flashing signs to show a car’s speed, while others have tried to install a traffic switch.

He said those can be expensive options.

“The survey you can only use for a guide,” said council member Tom McCartney. “Wanting a higher police presence on M-29 to combat speeding is not the right way to do it.”

McCartney said the city needs to identify its crosswalks and made the argument that posting more police on M-29 would deter downtown visitors.

“We should paint (our crosswalks), and that will slow down our traffic,” he said. “You can’t ticket that region to the point you won’t have traffic. We can accomplish our goals by either slowing traffic down or installing better crosswalks.”

City superintendent Mike Booth reminded the council that M-29 is a state highway and that the speed limit cannot be lowered without the approval of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

McCartney made comparisons to Port Huron’s downtown district, where Huron Avenue has a traffic light at nearly every block. He said there are no traffic lights in St. Clair between Brown Street and M-29, as well as Vine Street and M-29.

“We need to talk further with the county and see if there is any grant money to help us with what we are discussing,” Cedar said. “A year from now we cannot be talking like this, every time you go out, there is a new hole or crack.”

Booth said they are looking into grants for crosswalks and signage for local roads. The city has 29.9 miles of roads, which includes gravel roads.

The roads on St. Clair’s project list would either require curb work, a mill-and-fill, or reconstruction, Booth said.

“We’ve done crack seal and small asphalt replacements,” he said. “We need to continue to do both, and we need to look at purchasing our own crack-seal equipment.”

Booth gave estimates for updating seven local streets, which came to $3,307,805.31. According to Booth’s numbers, Goffe Street would cost the most at $826,214.40.

Debt the city had incurred from a 2005 street bond will expire in November 2016 after two payments, he said. In 2015 the city will pay $470,067.50 and $488,640.00 in 2016.

“We need to review the state-funding package and what that means to the city if it were to pass,” Booth said. “We need to update the road ratings to create some sort of pecking order.”

St. Clair Highway was not addressed by the board during the special meeting, but McCartney said they should discuss a plan for the highway at the next meeting.

St. Clair Highway has been closed to traffic since 2013 after multiple attempts to fix the road did not work.

In the regular meeting, Booth gave an update in the M-29 bridge project.

Having closed the bridge on Jan. 15, Booth said MDOT agreed to add additional signage to the construction area.

“They did indicate that work on the bridge would be performed on Sundays,” he said. “The reasoning behind that was so that it could be reopened by the end of March.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 19, 2015)

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