The new Eagle Mine is scheduled to begin production in 2014 and expected to produce roughly 360 million pounds of nickel, 295 million pounds of copper and other metals over its eight years of productive life, according to the Eagle Mine website.
For years, the Eagle Mine has made the news in Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula, and is a hot topic for debate at many levels. With efforts now aimed at finding an appropriate trucking route from the mine to the processing plant in Humboldt Township, a new plan by the city has come up.
The City of Marquette has proposed a new city ordinance that would require large trucks more than 10,000 pounds to detour around certain roads that are not designated as trucking routes. These roads include Sugarloaf Avenue and Wright Street — roads that hug the north side of NMU’s campus.
Companies in the Big Bay region that utilize large commercial trucks to carry essential goods from Marquette via County Road 550 would also suffer. These trucks include logging trucks and trucks delivering food and beverages to local stores.
According to the Mining Journal, if City Ordinance 608 is passed, any vehicle that is in violation of the rules faces a civil infraction and a $500 fine.
However, a provision would allow the city manager to grant permits in certain cases; some that would last five days and one round trip and others for longer periods of time. Not just Lundin Mining Corporation would be affected but any commercial business would be subject to the new ordinance and its fines.
In a recent article by the Mining Journal, locations for a potential alternative route have been pinpointed, locations that would be a substitute route for Sugarloaf Avenue and Wright Street. The one that is receiving the most attention at the moment is a Board of Light and Power access road on Wright Street west of Ontario Street.
Having recently examined the road, I was not impressed that it is being considered as an option.
It is very narrow; with enough room for one vehicle, not able to support a large amount of truck traffic and nothing more than a layer of asphalt over dirt. A better option, though already denied, would have been County Road 510, which is similar to County Road 550 but connects directly to U.S. 41 and bypasses the city of Marquette.
A more pressing matter for NMU students is that if the ordinance is not passed, we would see an increase in large truck traffic along Sugarloaf Avenue near the Jacobetti building and along the backside of the dorms on Wright Street, making it much more dangerous for students who walk or ride bikes in the area.
Many students at NMU adhere to the code that pedestrians have the right of way. There is nothing wrong with this; however, with an increase in truck traffic at this intersection on campus, pedestrians will have to realize haulers cannot stop on a dime like many vehicles on the road. There have been times I’ve been driving along Wright Street and had people dash out in front of me, posing serious issues with potential accidents caused by student recklessness.
According to a recent editorial by the North Wind, it is the position of ASNMU and NMU administrators that an alternative route that avoids campus should be found. This would be to ensure student safety once the mine’s production begins, even though authorities at Eagle Mine insist that the worst of the traffic has already passed through. NMU administrators are willing to find a safe way for the trucks to traverse Northern’s campus out to U.S. 41 and seem more willing to act on a compromise than city officials.
Considering both the danger to students and other issues, I am against the ordinance purely because I dislike regulations implemented on short notice that seem to hinder everyday operations. Regulating truck traffic could become a waste of time, money and other resources for the city, all of which are valuable.
If the city would buckle down and work out a compromise that would benefit everyone, then the matter would be settled.
According to the Mining Journal, in the beginning Lundin Mining Corporation offered the city $3.7 million to rework the intersection of Wright Street and Sugarloaf to make it safer for the community as a whole, but the city rejected it. Work on this option could have taken place during the summer when the majority of students are not around.
I would hope that in the future, all parties involved in the truck route conversation will be able to work out an agreement that will put this discussion in the past so that mine operations and road construction can continue unhindered.