Residents skeptical of ‘road diet’ for Portage Road

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Portage is planning to reduce lanes on a major section of road and add bike lanes.   

City Manager Laurence Shaffer says the change on Portage Road will slow traffic, making the area safer for bicyclists and drivers.

The first part of the road diet project will span from Bacon Avenue to Lakeview Avenue and the second section will include Lakeview to Forest Drive.

“There seems to be an opportunity to make improvements to that commercial corridor,” Shaffer said. “We want to make improvements that both beautify and make it easier for those people who wish to shop along Portage Road to do so.”

David Morris, the owner of the Daily Grind Café on Portage Road just north of Forest, is concerned that reducing vehicle lanes will make it harder for customers to get to his business.

“If you slow the traffic down, you’re going to have bumper to bumper and people aren’t going to want to turn in and get back out of there,” Morris said.

He said the city has existing bike lanes that are not often used and the road diet project is unnecessary.

“I just don’t understand why this is being forced down people’s throat,” Morris said. “We just don’t see enough bikes to support it.”

Ken Johnson, a Portage resident, also does not think reducing lanes will improve traffic and says it might hurt businesses if people avoid the area entirely.

“To have bicycles and cars together on the same road, it just doesn’t make sense to me,” Johnson said.

He suggested the city consider making a separate bike path away from the roadway, if there is enough need in the area.

The city manager said the road diet could be easily reversed if needed.

“The width of the road will remain approximately the same so if we discover with this experimentation that it doesn’t work out, we had the opportunity to restripe that road back to its original configuration,” Morris said.

Crews will start work on the first section from Bacon Avenue to Lakeview Avenue next year and the second section from Lakeview to Forest Drive the following year.

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