Portage debates road plan for Lake Center district

Kalamazoo County

PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — The city or Portage is looking to invest millions of dollars in the Lake Center business district, but parts of the proposal have drawn criticism.

Some business owners and residents have expressed concerns about a plan that would reduce the number of traffic lanes on a section of Portage Road from five to one in each direction with a turn lane and bike lanes.

The district spans 2 1/2 miles from East Centre Avenue to East Osterhout Avenue.

Jeff Daanae, the owner of Daane’s Wines and Liquors, is encouraged by the city allocating $6.1 million for improvements next year but has reservations about the traffic proposal.

“I really like the idea that they’re starting to pour some money into this area. They kind of ignored this area for years,” Daane said. “The shrinking of the road, I don’t think is a great idea. We have multiple homes going up on the south side of the corridor, multiple businesses going up on the north side of the corridor.”

Portage Road in Portage. (July 13, 2021)

Mayor Patricia Randall says the plan is a study with recommendations made by a steering committee. Specific parts of the proposal would still need to be approved. The city says the change would improve safety by slowing traffic to reduce crashes.

“We have done traffic studies and believe it or not, more cars can go through on a three-lane light than a five-lane. You eliminate the right and the left turn stopping, and accidents tend to go down when people are not passing on the right or the left,” Randall said.

Some homeowners had expressed concerns about an idea that would widen the channel and add boardwalks.

“It covers 20 years and that crosswalk or widening of the channel has been moved from any implementation to more of a vision of what it could be, so that is really off the table,” Randall said.

The mayor says the focus is on projects for the next one to five years, which include the lane changes, widening sidewalks and work to improve utility infrastructure.

Randall says the council hopes the plan would spur economic activity and attract new businesses to the district. She says the city council welcomes feedback and any plans would still need to go through the normal approval process.

The Portage City Council had the proposal on its agenda to discuss at the July 13 meeting.

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