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I Will Not Vote For Paul Viar

Paul Viar, running for re-election as Shelby Township Treasurer in 2008 voted against the two local pedestrian bridges which make it safe for me to bike westward.

A man named Paul Viar is running for re-election as Shelby Township treasurer this fall, but I will not be voting for him.

Yesterday I received the flier above (click the image or here to make it larger) in the mail asking for my vote. One particular bullet point I noticed is the one circled in magenta, which reads:

He voted against paying $2.7 million for two (rarely used) pedestrian bridges, preferring to use tax money to improve township roads.

Thankfully, against the wishes of Mr. Viar, the bridges across M-53, a multi-lane limited access highway, were built. The existence of these bridges allows me to safely ride my bicycle to points westward. Without them I would have to either ride in 45 MPH – 50 MPH soft shoulder or curbed roads (unsafe, particularly when on the far side of the bridges) or at least four miles out of my way north or south to safe crossing points.

I use these at least a couple times per week. Danielle also uses this bridge whenever she walks to the Humane Society of Macomb to visit the horses.

This article from the Advisor Source elaborates:

The current overpasses contain a 24-inch width for pedestrians to walk on when crossing over the highway. Plans to install mandatory guardrails [required to conform Federal standards to keep vehicles from going over the side of the bridge] along the walkway would have further limited the amount of access for pedestrians and cyclists, forcing them closer to a busy roadway with limited visibility.

“Last year I just became even more aware of how serious this problem was because some of the local high schools, their track teams run over that road. They run right on the road and that’s really dangerous,” Manzella said. “We’ve had several incidents out there and it’s just a very dangerous place to walk or ride a bike.”

Township Supervisor Ralph Maccarone said the large amount of amenities for pedestrians on the west side of the township was a draw for people from throughout the area, making a safe location to cross a necessity.

“We have major developments on both sides of the freeway, and we really wanted to provide some access to the parks and trail system we have out there,” said Maccarone.

While I understand that Mr. Viar is conservative in his spending of the public’s dollars, I feel that safe and equal transportation for citizens using whatever mode they choose (foot, bicycle, car, whatever) is worth paying for, and these bridges go a long ways towards allowing equal use of our road system. Not only have I seen pedestrians and other cyclists on the new bridges, I have also encountered people crossing it in motorized wheelchairs, kids riding up and down the safe approaches, and people just using the bridge to move about without a car. That is, people who couldn’t safely use this corridor before.

Mr. Viar’s claim that he voted against paying $2.7 million is also a bit inflated. While the total cost of the project was $2.7 million, $1,187,500 of the cost was actually paid by MDOT grants. Per these meeting minutes (.DOC file) the township’s portion of the bridge cost was only $1,458,500.

Additionally, Mr. Viar also claims in this flier that he “…established an on-line payment system to make it more convenient for Shelby residents to pay their taxes.” I’m not sure what Mr. Viar’s idea of establishing or convenient is, but outsourcing payments to a company which charges a 3% “convenience charge” does not strike me as particularly inventive or useful. What I would find useful is if the township came up with a facility for paying one’s water and sewer bill online and without undue additional fees. Currently this quarterly bill is the only bill for which I still have to write and mail a check.

For reference, the two bridges can be found at these links on Google Maps, although the currently posted images have them in an unfinished state: 21 Mile · 22 Mile.

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