The Napier Avenue Corridor is an important east-west transportation route in the Benton Harbor - St. Joseph region, providing connectivity from the I-94 expressway into core cities, providing access to major shopping and medical destinations, and serving a number of neighborhoods and local businesses. While Napier Avenue may function well for vehicular travel, it is not a "complete street" that comfortable and safely accommodates all users. Currently, the roadway has a very minimal amount of sidewalks and crosswalks to provide for safe walking conditions; however, the road is still used by pedestrians and bicyclists who are forced to walk in the road or in the front yards of adjacent properties as seen by several worn pathways along the sides of the street in many areas. With schools, churches, places of employment, medical facilities, and shopping destinations located along this four-mile stretch of Napier Avenue, it cannot be expected that every user should have to reach their destination by automobile.
This planning effort aims to lay the foundations for changing that. The change in approach to designing roadways for all users is consistent with trends seen around the country and throughout the state where engineers, planners, health officials, and others are increasingly rethinking the auto-centric design of cities and roadways.
The stretch of Napier Avenue considered in this study spans from Langely Avenue on the eastern end to the Interstate 94 interchange on the western end. A map of the study area can be found here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is doing this study?
The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission (SWMPC) is performing the study with the help of consulting firms AECOM and Williams & Works. SWMPC is the Benton Harbor - St. Joseph urbanized area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). MPOs are federally required to assure coordinated multi-modal transportation planning (roads, bridges, transit, inter-city rail, non-motorized, and pedestrian). The MPO, the planning process, and its products are required to allow local agencies to receive federal transportation funds projects and public transportation. SWMPC is a cooperative effort of local jurisdictions, transportation agencies, and other local organizations connected to the transportation system.
For more information, please go to http://www.swmpc.org/aboutus.asp
What part of Napier Avenue is covered in this plan?
This study will consider the stretch of Napier Avenue from immediately west of the Langely Avenue intersection westward to the I-94 interchange. The physical roadway, public rights-of-way, and adjacent properties will be considered in this plan. A map of the study area can be found here.
What is the purpose of this plan?
This plan seeks to accomplish a number of things, including:
- Develop a preferred design concept that addresses gaps in the pedestrian and bicycle network;
- Promote safety for all users;
- Meet the needs of corridor residents;
- Support existing and future development;
- Allow Napier Avenue to better fulfill its role as a regional connector; and
- Provide extensive citizen and community outreach and participation opportunities.
Is this study needed? Why?
Yes! Here's why:
- Facilities for walking and biking are frequently missing in the corridor. Despite being located in an area of fairly high population density with neighborhoods on either side, Napier Avenue between the St. Joseph River and Interstate 94 has very few dedicated non-motorized facilities. Sidewalks only exist in certain areas and are not connected to other parts of the corridor. Crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signals have also been installed only at the major intersections along the Corridor and do not usually connect to the few sidewalks that exist. Dedicated bicycle facilities are also not present, meaning that any bicyclists would face the choice of traveling in a vehicular lane or along the sidewalks that exist in some locations.
- The corridor requires safety enhancements for all users. The lack of dedicated non-motorized facilities is both a safety issue for those who need to walk along Napier Avenue and is not a comfortable environment for those who may want to walk or bike to their destination. Although there are relatively few bicycle and pedestrian crashes in the corridor, this may be due to the lack of non-motorized facilities and the overall uncomfortable walking conditions.
- The corridor is home to a significant population in need of safe, walkable infrastructure. Along the Napier Avenue corridor, there are areas with relatively high proportions of zero car households, individuals living in poverty, seniors, and school aged children; all groups that have a higher propensity to walk as a primary form of transportation. The east end of the corridor is home to a number of large retail businesses that may be current or potential employment areas for residents living nearby. There are schools, retail areas, and employment opportunities along Napier Avenue that residents may need to walk to. Improving the walking and cycling conditions in the Napier Avenue corridor can help those lacking access to a vehicle get to their destinations safely and more comfortably.
- Walking and biking access would benefit current and planned future land uses along the corridor. The Napier Avenue corridor consists of a mix of single family housing, neighborhood retail, and big box commercial centers. The neighborhood retail areas and schools along the Corridor could also be accessed easier by foot with the addition of sidewalks and bike facilities. The planning efforts led by local communities seek to bolster these uses but also to bring more mixed use developments along Napier Avenue. These plans speak to the long term sustainability of the communities along the vorridor, and would benefit greatly from the addition of connected pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Walkability and pedestrian friendliness are becoming more and more important to people when choosing where to live. The cities with walkable retail districts, connected sidewalk networks, and bike friendly streets have higher property values and a better quality of life than those lacking non-motorized facilities. Future revitalization and development may be more attractive to developers if Napier Avenue and the surrounding streets feature facilities for all users.
- Napier Avenue could better connect the region to jobs, shopping, and other destinations. The east and west ends of the Corridor are also home to large employment centers where nearby residents may already work or could work in the future. Improving access to these jobs by all travel modes is important for both employees, who need to get to work safely and easily, and employers, who need their employees to arrive on time each day. Additionally, public transit is dependent on having safe, walkable streets and increasing transit access to employment opportunities along Napier Avenue will not function well if riders cannot walk to their final destination.
I've heard the term "non-motorized facility." What are some examples of these?
The Benton Harbor - St. Joseph metro area has several different types of bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and it's important to understand the wide variety of possible solutions which can be used to make Napier Avenue more bikable and walkable. We provide an explanation of each type of possible solution and explain the distinctions between each in our Possible Solutions page.
How can I provide feedback?
Great question. All members of the public are invited to public meetings where we will solicit input and present concept alternatives. Additionally, you can provide your input electronically by participating in our interactive public engagement platform or email us with your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also check out SWMPC's Facebook page.