Our View: Don’t let Niles Township walk all over trail projectPublished 7:28am Friday, March 8, 2013
The Niles Township Board of Trustees is on the brink of making a decision that would embarrass the township for years to come.
The board will be voting March 18 on whether to approve a design plan for the township’s portion of the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail, including a designed at-grade crossing at the intersection of Third Street and U.S. 12.
If the board doesn’t approve the plan, the township will almost certainly lose more than $800,000 in state grants set aside for building the trail. Those funds, according to experts, will likely never be available again. That means — if the township votes no — the township’s 4.5-mile portion of the trail will never get built.
For those who don’t know already, the proposed I-M River Valley Trail, when finished, would connect the City of Niles to Mishawaka, Ind., with 34 miles of recreational trail. It is a wonderful project designed to bring together communities and boost business.
The trail is almost complete. Approximately 7.5 miles remain unfinished, including 4.5 miles in Niles Township.
If the township’s portion doesn’t get built, the trail will stop at the state line, effectively defeating the purpose of having a trail at all.
The township will look pretty foolish if that happens. Imagine how upset our surrounding communities will be if the township ruins the trail for everyone else. It would be, frankly, embarrassing.
Why would the township vote no?
At least three members have said the trail’s designed at-grade crossing at U.S. 12 is unsafe.
They’ve said this despite the fact that the Michigan Department of Transportation has approved the project based on the current plans, including the at-grade crossing. Numerous engineers have also said the at-grade crossing is the best option.
At some point, you have to trust the experts and move ahead with the project.
The at-grade crossing will have push button pedestrian traffic signals and new signage in advance of the crossing. These improvements will unquestionably make the intersection safer than it is today.
The distance from one side of U.S. 12 to the other at the intersection is 117 feet.
If you care about the future of the trail, tell the board not to let that 117 feet get in the way of 34 miles.
The views expressed in this editorial are those of the Niles Daily Star editorial board.