2017-10-12 / News

Senator Schmidt Talks US-2, Cormorants, and Other Local Issues

By Stephen King

State Senator Wayne Schmidt told constituents there may be hope for a flashing 45-mile-per-hour speedlimit sign west of St. Ignace along US-2 during a September 21 round of coffee-hour-style meetings in the Upper Peninsula.

“We might be able to do something with this; I will talk to (officials at the Michigan Department of Transportation) and we might be able to get a sign,” he told citizens at the St. Ignace-area coffee. “That doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal.”

Residents of Moran Township, particularly, have raised concerns about eastbound drivers who fail to slow from 65 to 45 when the speed limit changes near the St. Ignace Golf and Country Club. That’s dangerous, they say, because there are crossing roads and numerous entrances to businesses along that stretch of the highway.

Legislation earlier this year increased the US-2 speed limit from 55 miles an hour to 65 miles an hour west of the golf course. While sympathetic to the concerns of citizens who oppose the higher speed limit, the senator said there’s little chance it will be switched back to the lower rate of speed: the Michigan State Police and the transportation department backed the change.

The increase in speed on US-2 was a recurring topic of discussion. Many Upper Peninsula residents, business owners, and local officials have voiced concerns about it.

Also at the St. Ignace meeting, business owner Keith Massaway said he heard the transportation department plans to close a section of US-2, at the crossing of the Brevort River for repairs.

“This will reroute traffic on I-75 and totally bypass our businesses,” he said. “The original plan called for them doing this in August, September, and October. The latest plan calls for the shutdown in September and October. This will still mean a lot of lost revenue for these businesses. If they do this, it will probably mean that some of them will end up going out of business.”

That led to a discussion of options for keeping traffic flowing, such as closing one lane at a time or installing a temporary detour span across the river. It was noted that the U.S. Army uses bridges that can be installed quickly. Participants agreed, however, the bridge across the Brevort River is due for repair or replacement. Sen. Schmidt promised to inquire about the plans for repairs and closing of the bridge.

Other participants said they fear another increase in cormorant populations following a federal court decision, about a year and a half ago, that effectively ended a state program designed to control their numbers. The control program was initiated amid a growing northern Michigan outcry about exploding cormorant populations anglers believed were devastating the Great Lakes fishery, especially in the Les Cheneaux area. The birds are voracious fish eaters.

“This is a Federal issue and there is not much we can do at the state level,” Sen. Schmidt said “One problem is that it is not a downstate issue. Congressman (Jack) Bergman has been doing a lot to resolve this issue, but the downstate federal people don’t seem that concerned.”

He promised to do what he could.

Another complaint was that it has been a decade since a fire destroyed the main structure at Father Marquette Park west of St. Ignace and still there has been nothing more than talk about replacing it. Sen. Schmidt didn’t argue with a statement from a participant that the state has no money for a replacement.

Mackinac County Commissioner Paul Krause said the welcome center at the St. Ignace end of the Mackinac Bridge is inadequate.

“This is a disgrace,” Mr. Krause said. “What we have there is a modular home, it is substandard. This welcome center is one of the busiest in the state. What we have there now is unacceptable. Something should be done.”

Some participants complained that the off-road vehicle trail rules are confusing: on state land, trails are open unless posted closed, but, on federal land, they are closed unless posted open, and on state land including county roads, riders are asked to use the shoulder, while on federal land, riders are to stay on the road surface. Sen. Schmidt said the issue needs to be resolved.

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