PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Talks between Crossroads Mall in Portage and public transit operator Metro could bring changes to the area’s third-busiest bus route, or even put it in outright jeopardy.

On Monday, Metro Executive Director Sean McBride gave an update to the Kalamazoo County Transportation Authority and Central County Transportation Authority about ongoing talks with Crossroads Mall management.

“We would not have access to the mall unless we agree to some sort of agreement,” McBride told board members.

It centers on Metro’s routes that go to and from Crossroads Mall, which are their third-busiest routes. McBride claims that mall management wants to charge Metro $50,000 a year to have access to the mall. If they can’t come to a what is called a reciprocal easement agreement, Metro would have to move those stops.

“This means that the mall would control all the roads in except for MLK Drive,” McBride said. “Other than that, all the roads in are mall controlled. Ring Road … and the parking lots are all mall controlled.”

Board members are concerned how it could affect pedestrian safety, especially along Westnedge Avenue.

“That whole area is a long way to traverse from a bus stop that we need to move away,” said Portage representative Chris Burns. “To me, it seems completely reprehensible that for $50,000 a year, they would put the safety of their customers and employees at risk.”

“They would have someone paying them to then bring them customers to the mall,” said Oshtemo Township representative Dusty Farmer. “That does sound like a great deal, it’s just a poor deal for public dollars.”

Crossroads General Manager Marni Sawicki told News 8 nothing is finalized, including the fee amount, and the primary underlying purpose for the REA has to do with the concrete that the buses also drive on.

“At this point, we’re just looking for how do we take care of the sinkholes. … It’s very large, massive buses using a lot of our property,” Sawicki said.

Sawicki says the former mall property owners, who ultimately defaulted on the mortgage, allowed the concrete throughout the parking lots and associated roads to fall into disrepair. Once a receivership gave ownership to the current operator, Kohan Retail Investment Group, in late 2021, Sawicki said the window to land repaving and road repair contracts passed, further aggravating the conditions. She says the annual fee through a supposed REA would help offset those repairs.

“What they would even be paying would be a drop in the bucket for what it really costs to replace that road. That road, to do all of Ring Road, is well over $4 million, and that’s not including the parking lot itself, which I have a lot of,” Sawick explained. “It was more of us just looking to create a better partnership so that there’s expectations for what is … happening on this property.”

Regardless, she assures overall bus service to the mall will be uninterrupted. The drop-offs could be moved to Mall Road and Romence Road if an agreement is not reached. But whether that will become the case is all still at a crossroads.