Complete Streets II

In the previous entry on Complete Streets, I was discussing development in Culver.  Marshall County is in the process of constructing Pioneer Drive (Pine Road Extension, VanVactor Parkway or Holm Highway depending on what you hear) on the west side of Plymouth.  Theo and I took a walk along it from Lincoln Highway to State Road 17 and back the other evening before the weather turned and before the asphalt was placed.  It was a pretty night for it, though the buzzing, cracking and popping from the high voltage towers was a little disconcerting… 

It appears that Marshall County may have missed several opportunities on this project for implementing some Complete Street ideas.  (Disclaimer:  I have not reviewed the final plans and I’m only going by my observations of the construction as it stands.)  Since this road comes out in the middle of several subdivisions on the southwest side of Plymouth, there could have been better provisions made for cyclists and pedestrians.  Instead it appears that the road has standard shoulders with large deep ditches on either side.  I initially thought that it was probably too far out to really have too much pedestrian traffic, but when I actually walked it the other night, I was surprised to find that I wasn’t the only one out there walking.  Since this road leads to the Lifeplex it would seem only natural that it should include some recreational/physical fitness provisions.  While I doubt sidewalks would have been cost effective for the potential foot traffic, adding a wider shoulder on one side with bike/pedestrian accommodations could have made sense.

The intersection with State Road 17 appears to have some sight distance issues that will make it difficult for both motor vehicles and especially cyclists.  Not to defend their flagrant disregard for road rules and etiquette; it’s pretty common to see bicycles ignore stop signs and lights at intersections.  They seem to do this regardless of the safety hazards involved.

I was disappointed in the implementation of erosion control on this project.  In many of the areas silt fence has been installed merely as window dressing running parallel to the slope rather than perpendicular to the slope where it would be effective.   There were areas where silt fence was installed at the top of the slope rather than at the bottom and was/is having no effect at all on erosion control.  Rip rap was missing from spillways and detention pond structures were left unprotected.

The deep ditches all along the road are disappointing on several levels.  They limit the opportunities for landscaping and the option of making this road into a tree-lined parkway.  They do little to slow stormwater runoff and the detention ponds appeared inadequate to account for the new impervious surface created by this road.  Development expenses will be high since if the ditch dimensions are appropriate then equivalently large culverts will be needed at any driveway accesses.  The ditches will also make it difficult to add lanes in the future if this road should need to be expanded to four lanes (as Oak Road was.).  And finally, since this road is to act as a bypass, then any new drive connections should include accel/decel lanes, which will be difficult and expensive to construct – another thing that is not conducive to development.

Sycamore Road/Rose Road Bypass

There’s no doubt that I was a little jaded on this project from the beginning.  I was involved with the Culver Chamber’s effort to spearhead a true Plymouth by-pass, from where S.R. 17 turns at West High, north to S.R. 30.  My personal feeling is that this would have served as a more effective by-pass and would have furthered the interests of Culver and Ancilla College in the process.  It would have allowed for an aerial railroad crossing due to the natural terrain; something lacking on Pioneer Drive.  (Water under the bridge, since additional residential development has occurred making this bypass route more difficult than it would have been 10 years ago.)  Pioneer Drive does not seem particularly effective as a by-pass or as a means of opening new land for development.  It seems to have missed a lot of its potential.

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