Past & Future Non-Motorized Improvements
Kalamazoo Township’s Community Survey in the Fall 2013 documented township residents’ general dissatisfaction with the state of accommodations for bicycle and foot traffic, rated 5.8 on a 1-10 scale (only road conditions at the time were rated lower among 48 surveyed topics). The survey also identified strong public support for sidewalk repairs and bike/walking paths.
The Kalamazoo Township Planning Commission created a Non-motorized Transportation Master Plan with input from dozens of residents and coordinated by a planning consultant. The Board of Trustees adopted the plan in December 2014.
Given the millions of dollars of costs needed to meet all of the non-motorized transportation needs identified in the plan, a Non-motorized Implementation Committee consisting of three township residents and two board members developed a strategy for prioritizing improvements focusing on:
- promoting Safe Routes to Schools,
- completing existing non-motorized infrastructure to make it more fully functional, such as
- repairing broken sidewalk slabs, and
- correcting “orphaned” sidewalks, which, for example, end in grass before reaching a road or end at a curb, which is a physical barrier to a person using a wheelchair or walker and replacing the barriers with ADA-compliant ramps,
- connecting users to the Kalamazoo River Valley Trailway, which passes through Kalamazoo Township’s Northwood and Westwood neighborhoods, and
- including sidewalks on the Road Commission of Kalamazoo County's primary roads and other busy roads, when pedestrian safety is deficient.
In the mid-2010s, Kalamazoo Township installed sidewalks on the east wide of Drake Road (between Grand Prairie Road to Kalamazoo Central High School), in partnership with neighboring Oshtemo Township and the City of Kalamazoo. Kalamazoo Township also installed a new sidewalk on the north side of Grand Prairie Road and improved deficiencies for the existing sidewalk on the south side of the road in order to connect Indian Prairie Elementary and Kalamazoo Central High schools, Stroud Family Park, the Grand Prairie Golf Course, and the Kalamazoo River Valley Trailway.
In June 2015, the Kalamazoo Township Board of Trustee adopted a Complete Streets Ordinance, which reflects the community’s commitment to supporting a network of transportation elements for safely driving, walking, bicycling, and other means to move within the township.
In February 2015, a voter-approved Transportation Bond financed $10 million worth of road and non-motorized transportation improvements. In partnership with the Road Commission of Kalamazoo County, the bond primarily funded road and road drainage improvements from 2015 – 2018. A portion of the bond funding also supported many non-motorized improvement projects, including:
- 44 “orphaned” sidewalks installed to connect existing sidewalks to roadways and to replace curb and gutter barriers with ADA-compliant ramps (see photo, below),
- over 100, “spot” repairs, each consisting of typically 1-7 concrete slabs, of existing, high-use sidewalks,
- 4+ miles of signed, bicycle routes on E. Main Street and Drake Road, as well as bicycle boulevards through Eastwood and Westwood, and
- 2.8 miles of new sidewalks installed adjacent to primary and other busy roads, including portions of Grand Prairie Road, Nazareth Road, Sunnyside Drive, Kendall Avenue, Olmstead Road, and West Main Street/M-43 (between Solon and Sabin Streets).
In recent years, Kalamazoo Township budgeted modest funds to continue a limited scope of additional non-motorized improvements. Unfortunately, COVID-related restrictions impacted the most recent plans. However, Kalamazoo Township aims to continue addressing the needs identified in the Non-motorized Transportation Master Plan, following the Implementation Committee’s prioritized guidelines, including, for example:
- 2021: Kalamazoo Township aims to complete 1) missing sidewalks segment on the south side of Northwood’s Edison Street and install an ADA ramp and crosswalk at Glen Street to connect to Northwood Elementary School, 2) a spot repair on Haskell, 3) an ADA ramp for the corner of Grand Pre and Ellamarie, and 4) partnering with the Road Commission of Kalamazoo County to increase the shoulder width of Nichols Road (between Grand Prairie and Ravine Roads) to improve residents’ access to the Kalamazoo River Valley Trailway. A large portion of currently absent sidewalk on the south side of West Main Street (between Sage and Sabin Streets) will be constructed by Kalsec.
- 2022: Sidewalk on the south of Lake Street in 2022: Kalamazoo County aims to complete this last segment of missing sidewalk in the area of the County Expo Center and Fairground (between Lamont Street and the Lakewood Fire Station), in coordination with construction for municipal sewer and road improvements for Lake Street.
- Near-future plans will also include correcting more of the Eastwood Neighborhood’s orphaned corners, where existing sidewalks do not reach roads. Future non-motorized improvements will objectively adhere to the Non-motorized Transportation Master Plan and the Implementation Committee’s guidelines, but future plans are not rigidly absolute, in order to maintain the flexibility needed for the Township to respond to the variability of available funds and evolving opportunities to partner with transportation agencies and other governmental units to maximize efficiencies.