The intersection of Lake Lansing Road and Towar Avenue — on the northeast corner of Whitehills Park — will be reconstructed as part of the trails project connecting the Northern Tier Trail to White Park with pedestrian safety in mind. The project is scheduled to be completed by September 2021.
City Council approved two amendments to Ingham County Trails and Parks Millage Project Agreement TR033 which, according to a memo from City Staff, will “extend the Northern Tier Trail through White Park to Lake Lansing Road and south from the end of the Northern Tier Trail on Towar Avenue to the East Lansing/Meridian Township border.”
The memo outlines that the City was originally given $469,000 via the Ingham County Trails and Parks Millage in 2016. That funding has been “leveraged” to also obtain a $300,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund for improvements to natural features.
The most notable change to the Lake Lansing-Towar intersection will be the removal of the eastbound slip lane — an extra lane on the right allowing drivers to turn right without entering the intersection — on Lake Lansing Road, circumventing the traffic light. Other changes include installing new traffic signals and pedestrian-activated, audible crossing signals. There will also be new pavement marking and signage.
The original allocation of nearly half a million dollars was intended to cover the whole project, including the Lake Lansing-Towar intersection, but reconstructing the intersection, according to the memo, ended up being more complicated and costly than anticipated due to the various entities involved and the limitations of the current traffic signals.
Thus, Council approved the two amendments to the project agreement on Jan. 19 (Item 3.4 on the consent agenda). Amendment No. 1 moves the end of the project agreement forward to August 28, 2021 and Amendment No. 2 allocates an additional $400,000 for the project from the county trails and parks millage — creating a grand total of $1,169,000 for the entire project ($869,000 for the trail, $300,000 for natural features). It’s unclear what the exact cost of the intersection rebuild is, as that construction is lumped into the cost of the whole project.
In that same meeting, Council also approved a $48,500 contract with Bergmann Architects “for engineering and construction administration services” relating to part of the project (Item 3.5 on the consent agenda). That money will be paid out from the new $400,000 allocation.
East Lansing’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission met on Jan. 20 — the day after Council approved the amendments — and received an update on park improvements from Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation Wendy Wilmers-Longpre.
She explained the cost issues to the Commissioners, namely how the traffic signals in place couldn’t be updated as desired, and will thus be replaced, and how safety concerns from Ingham County officials spurred the full-on reconstruction.
“We are just really excited about being able to do this project,” she said after explaining the planned redesign. “When you think about connectivity, moving people through the City of East Lansing trails system as well as Meridian Township’s trail system, making the connection from Towar Avenue down to Whitehills Elementary School. It’s just really going to be a wonderful improvement.”
“So much safety. That was not a pedestrian friendly intersection,” Commission Chair Pam Weil said.
“I’m not a civil engineer by any means, but whenever I’ve driven through there, I’ve always sort of wondered, ‘What’s going on? What’s with the turn there?’ So in addition to just being a better intersection, you get all of the benefits of the connectivity,” Commissioner Adam DeLay said.
Wilmers-Longpre outlined the project timeline for the Commission, too.
With the contract approved for Bergmann Architects, the project design is being finished and a construction plan created. That is slated to run through the end of March, according to a preliminary schedule shared with the Commission.
Following the planning phase, in April and May the contract for the actual construction will be bid-out via a Request for Proposals. Then, once the construction contract has been awarded, the actual rebuilding of the intersection will take place, running from June through late August.
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