The discussion continues regarding truck traffic to the Eagle Mine in northern Marquette County. Upgrades to Marquette County Road 550 are ongoing, but in the city of Marquette, it's a different story.
Trucks from the nickel and copper mine travel through the city on Sugarloaf Avenue and Wright Street. City and mine officials are still considering how to improve those roadways.
On Tuesday morning, the Marquette City Commission held a work session with Lundin Mining representatives in attendance. Lundin recently purchased the Eagle Mine.
Commissioner Mike Coyne said his concerns with the trucks include safety at the intersection of Sugarloaf and Wright, the environmental impact and the wear on the roads.
"If there are 80 haul trucks coming from the Eagle Mine, because of the tremendous weight that is, that's the equivalent of 200,000 cars driving on Wright Street, weight-wise," Coyne said.
Matt Johnson, community relations manager for the Eagle Mine, said Lundin is willing to pay for some upgrade work.
"We see some opportunity in working with the city commission to look at safety improvements within the city, safety improvements that would benefit the city and Northern Michigan University," Johnson said.
Commissioner Don Ryan said it is time to be proactive with determining a route for the trucks.
Coyne said there is a "very good chance" that Marquette taxpayers will also have to pay for some of the upgrades. He added that there is still a possibility that a new route for trucks could be built through Marquette Township.
In January, a permit for an alternative route to the mine, known as Marquette County Road 595, was rejected by the Environmental Protective Agency. Johnson said that Lundin would consider another alternative route to the mine.
"For many years, since the design and permitting and construction of the Eagle Mine, we've looked at alternative transportation routes, and we'll continue to do so," Johnson said.
Coyne said that exploration is up to local elected officials, and that process is also ongoing. He said an alternative route would also benefit Lundin because it would mean less and safer travel for their trucks.
"I think it's in the mining company's interest eventually to have an alternative truck route, but in the meantime, we have to work together to try to minimize the effects, both financially and quality of life-wise, to have these trucks running through town," Coyne said.
Because Tuesday's meeting was a work session, the commission could not make any decisions. The issue could be on the agenda for the commission's regular meeting next Monday night at 7:00 p.m. At Tuesday's work session, the commission discussed creating a sub-committee that would include three commissioners and the city manager.
The Eagle Mine is scheduled to begin production in late-2014 with full production happening in mid-2015.
Coyne said the issue with Eagle Mine trucks shows that the city needs to establish a truck ordinance.
"Simply put, there should be a north-south, east-west truck route," he said. "We've spent a lot of money and are going to have a new traffic study, and it's for the city residents' benefits and the truckers' benefits. We need to clearly define where trucks will be allowed."