MARQUETTE - Aside from motorists, Marquette's downtown business owners will likely be the most affected by this summer's roundabout project at the intersection of U.S. 41/M-28 and Front Street.
Front Street will be closed for eight to 10 weeks during the first phase of the $1.1 million project.
"Unfortunately those eight to 10 weeks are our primary eight to 10 weeks," Downtown Development Authority Director Mona Lang said. "But I know (the Michigan Department of Transportation) and the city will do everything they can to ensure that there's as little disruption as possible."
MDOT's official detour route for downtown traffic directs motorists to take U.S. 41 to Grove Street, however Lang and downtown business owners said that's not the ideal route.
They prefer that downtown traffic be directed to use Lakeshore Boulevard. Lang said the DDA will purchase billboard space throughout the area alerting residents and visitors that downtown is still accessible. She said she is also working with the city to install a sign near the Front Street/Lakeshore Boulevard intersection to alert traffic of the alternative route.
However truck traffic over 5 tons will not be able to use the Lakeshore route. Lakeshore, between U.S. 41 and Baraga Avenue, has a 5 ton weight limit.
Andy Sikkema, manager of MDOT's Transportation Service Center in Ishpeming, said no one from the city government has requested the official detour route be changed but he was willing to work with the city on any changes.
"If they came to some conclusion or wanted to make some changes in the signing for the reroute we would be more than willing to work with them to assist in making those changes," he said.
Acting City Manager Mike Angeli confirmed the city is working with the DDA to install signs near Lakeshore Boulevard, but he said he has not been told to ask MDOT to change the official detour.
Lang said this summer will be an important retail season for downtown businesses because Marquette gained national attention after it won the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2010 Dozen Distinctive Destinations Fan Favorite online contest.
Jack Deo, who owns Superior View Studios, said he wasn't concerned about the roundabout project. He said any disruption caused by the project would be minimal compared to the downtown reconstruction project in the late 1980s which forced him to close his business for a whole summer.
"People are going to find their way downtown if they want to get downtown, especially for shopping," he said. "And I'm hoping to have a really big summer, one of our biggest. It doesn't worry me because I know we've been through worse."
David Allie, who owns The Safety Store, said he is concerned about a decrease in downtown customers and won't be satisfied until a sign is put up on Lakeshore.
"There's over 2,000 people working in the downtown area. A lot of the tax base for this town is downtown. The retail businesses are here and the offices and we need as many people cruising through here all summer long," he said.
The project starts on May 3 and will end in late August.
Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. His e-mail address is cdiem@miningjournal. net.