MDOT meets with community members, proposes to repave a strip of U.S.12

NEW BUFFALO, Mich. (WNDU) - In 2021, the Michigan Department of Transportation said they hope to repave a few miles of U.S. 12 from the state line to Red Arrow Highway, going through New Buffalo.

Commonly known as a "road diet," they want to reduce the number of lanes from four to three.

"Which will be a nightmare during the busy holiday seasons, or should I say summer season," resident John Gorny said.

At a meeting Wednesday, MDOT representatives talked with community members about why they feel this proposed project is necessary.

MDOT said safety is their No. 1 priority.

"It gets that left-turn traffic out of the flow of traffic. So, we are reducing the number of crashes by probably two-thirds," MDOT spokesperson Nick Schirripa said.

MDOT said in the last four years, there have been 157 crashes on this stretch of U.S. 12. They said two-thirds of those crashes would not have happened if there had been three lanes.

MDOT also said the lane reduction will provide wider shoulders, a buffer between cars and pedestrians, will help eliminate weaving in and out of traffic lanes, and will help reduce side-street delays.

In a four-lane section, MDOT said emergency responders have to negotiate traffic. With a road diet, however, they can use the turn lane.

This proposal is not a done deal, as they are still in the planning phase.

"We wanted to get some community feedback. Certainly there are some things these folks know working and living here, just because we are not here every day," Schirripa said.

"But in fact, I was lectured to, and a lot of statistics were thrown about," Gorny said.

MDOT said they have been planning this resurfacing project long before the Marquette Greenway Project, which is a trail connecting New Buffalo to Chicago.

"Creating a safer, efficient roadway was the catalyst for the road diet concept. When that idea became public and other organizations started talking with us about it, that's when the idea of adding the Greenway as a partnership came to be. So, there is certainly an opportunity to work together with the folks on the Maquette Greenway, but it was not a catalyst for this project," Schirripa said.

The proposed repaving project would cost $2.4 million.