Lighting the way

Plans for Pierce Street sidewalks, lights in works

By Hannah Lentz and Jess Hodge | 1/15/17 8:59pm

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GVL/Mackenzie Bush - Completed lighting project on 48th Avenue Friday, Jan. 13, 2017.

by Mackenzie Bush / Grand Valley Lanthorn

After partnering with Allendale Township and Consumers Energy, Grand Valley State University has helped to install permanent lights along 48th Avenue. With positive feedback about the new lights and more lingering concerns about other dimly lit streets, there are plans underway for both sidewalks and lights along Pierce Street between 42nd and 48th avenues.

The new plans for Pierce Street come after concerns for students' safety have been brought up multiple times to GVSU and Allendale Township. The stretch of Pierce Street between 42nd and 48th avenues is a popular place for students to walk down. Many students walk that way to head to campus for class, jog during the warmer months and even walk back home from parties at night from different apartment complexes.

Over the past 2 years, there have been 3 accidents near off-campus apartments on Pierce Street and 48th Avenue.

Tim Thimmesch, associate vice president of facilities services at GVSU, said the plans for Pierce Street are in the works to begin after the semester ends.

"If everything gets in place, the project will start the first of May and be done by the end of summer," he said.

Part of getting the lighting expansion started includes planning on the part of Allendale Township regarding timing and costs. 

"I am working (on timing and numbers) and will be talking to Grand Valley, the student housing owners and our township board with more details in the near future," said Adam Elenbaas, Allendale Charter Township supervisor.

Thimmesch said this project is slightly different than the lights recently installed on 48th Avenue, as the lights will not be part of the roadway but will instead be installed along the sidewalks.

Despite the off-campus apartments not being within GVSU's jurisdiction since they are not a part of campus, Thimmesch said he still felt it was important to aid in the project.

"It is our students that live on the west side of 48th Street and the apartments there, and we had security issues that were occurring in those places, (so) we felt it was very important to get involved and help promote and get lighting on 48th Street," he said.

The main role of GVSU, Thimmesch said, was putting pressure on Allendale Township to show the poor lighting was a problem they needed to prioritize and fix.

In addition to putting pressure to start the project, GVSU will also pay for part of the Pierce Street renovations.

"Allendale Township is helping to go in and fund the project for the sidewalks and Grand Valley will (pay for) the lighting," Thimmesch said. “It was just (important) having a seat at the table to emphasize to get this done and get the lights installed because it is Grand Valley students being affected."

Allendale Township has also been receiving comments regarding the current light installation project along 48th Avenue from community members that use the road.

"I’ve heard a few positive comments, but mostly from drivers, not the pedestrians that use the walkways under the new lighting," Elenbaas said. "This is likely due to the fact that it is winter and there is a lot less pedestrian activity with the colder temperatures. The comments from drivers are that the lighting looks very nice, and they help brighten up the side of road."

Overall, student and community safety as well as traffic flow has been the overall focus of the construction done near the university and is also a major part of the plans to expand lighting down Pierce Street. 

"The new lights increase visibility," Elenbaas said. "They should have been a part of the plan when the sidewalks were first installed. Thank you to GVSU and Consumers for installing the temporary lighting until the permanent lighting went up."

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