The future of 48th Avenue

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Audra Gamble

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After a series of accidents involving Grand Valley State University students on 48th Avenue this semester, Allendale Charter Township has released information about the future plans for the avenue.

According to Allendale Supervisor Jerry Alkema, construction on 48th Avenue will begin in the early spring of 2016 and will be completed in time for the start of the 2016-2017 academic year.

The avenue will be expanded into a four-lane highway, separated by a grassy median in the middle. The outside lanes will be dedicated to buses and bicyclists.

“We anticipate a large bus use as transit along with bicycles,” Alkema said. “Bicyclists really prefer to be in the road, from what I’m seeing here.”

In addition to the road expansion, a 10-foot-wide sidewalk will be on the west side of the avenue. This non-motorized path is twice as wide as a standard sidewalk, to accommodate for bikes. The sidewalk will be 15 feet away from the highway and will be separated by a curb.

“We’re still in discussion about the lighting and some of the features,” Alkema said. “(We don’t know) if it will be just a grass boulevard or additional landscaping and so forth.”

The funding for the sidewalk is coming from a federal transportation award, which Alkema said has already been secured.

Along with the sidewalk, there will be lit crosswalks that lead up from each side of the road to the median.

The GVSU Student Senate approves of the plan set forth for 48th Avenue. Senator Madelanie Cleghorn, the vice president for external relations, said that the plan accommodates for student concerns and is satisfied with the improvements.

However, not all members of the GVSU community are happy about the new plan. Patricia Houser, an urban planning professor, wishes that there had been more opportunities for public input about the future of 48th Avenue.

“There has always been a certain amount of information in this situation – among other things the rationale for persisting with the plan for a highway next to a college campus – that has never been fully explained,” Houser said. “This lack of transparency in a publicly funded project is, I think, troubling.”

According to Houser, multiple authorities on transportation planning, including the Michigan Department of Transportation advise that people affected by the transportation issue speak up early on in the planning stages in order to have meaningful input on the project.

“The whole notion of the importance of ‘stakeholders’ in local planning is an important one,” Houser said.

Alkema said construction cones will be placed on 48th Avenue beginning in April of 2016.

“(Construction) will start as soon as school lets out,” Alkema said. “As soon as exams are done, we’ll start tearing into it. Hopefully it will be done for school in the fall.”

For more information regarding the recent accidents that occurred on 48th Avenue, read the Lanthorn article “Support for sidewalks increases” from Oct. 20 at www.bit.ly/1uZZvSi.

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