Niles Township officials will decide March 18 whether to approve a design on the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail. Submitted photo
Niles Township officials will decide March 18 whether to approve a design on the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail. Submitted photo

Archived Story

Township delays decison on recreational trail

Published 11:49am Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The future of the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail remains in question as the Niles Charter Township Board of Trustees postponed a decision Monday on whether to approve a design for the trail’s crossing at Third Street and U.S. 12.

The board voted to delay the decision until March 18, citing a desire to have trustee Herschel Hoese vote on the issue. Hoese was absent Monday.

The township will be voting whether to approve engineering firm Whiteman & Associates’ bid for the design of the trail, including an at-grade crossing plan at U.S. 12. Trustees Chris Vella and Dick Noble and Supervisor Jim Stover have all questioned the safety of the at-grade crossing design.

Altering the plan or not accepting Whiteman’s bid could mean losing more than $800,000 in state grants already secured for the trail project.

“I think it does jeopardize the funding,” said Marcy Colclough of Southwestern Michigan Planning Commission.

Whiteman & Associates Engineer Steven Carlisle spent nearly an hour Monday explaining the pros and cons of the at-grade crossing plan at Third Street and U.S. 12 — a six-lane highway with a posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour.

The at-grade crossing has several safety features, including pedestrian push-button crossing signals and signal-ahead signage on the trail, U.S. 12 and Third Street.

Carlisle said pedestrians would have 32 seconds to cross the 117-foot intersection after pushing the button. He also said at-grade crossing plans have proven safe at similar intersections in Holland and South Bend, Ind. MDOT has signed off on the plan.

As for the pedestrian bridge option, Carlisle said it would be expensive and require the building of 350- to 400-foot-long ramps on either side of the bridge to become compliant with the American Disabilities Act. Carlisle also said a bridge wouldn’t be used if there is a quicker, more direct route available, such as crossing the street at-grade.

During public comment portion of the meeting, seven people spoke in favor of the at-grade crossing plan, while one person spoke against the plan. Harry Thibault, chairman of the township’s park commission, also spoke in favor of the at-grade crossing.

Opinions among the board were mixed.

Trustee Richard Cooper and Clerk Terry Eull indicated they were in favor of the at-grade crossing plan, while Vella, Stover and Noble all expressed concerns about the plan. Treasurer Jim Ringler did not comment on the crossing Monday.

It would take a majority vote for the plan to be approved.

When finished, the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail will connect Niles to Mishawaka, Ind., with 34-miles of recreation trail. Only 7.5 miles of trail remain to be built, including 4.5 miles in Niles Township.

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