Construction of a new westbound I-196 ramp aims to give downtown drivers more flexibility when leaving downtown and clear up congestion along Medical Mile.
Ionia Avenue north of Michigan Street and the eastbound I-196 on-ramp were closed last week for the reconstruction of a new westbound on-ramp that also would connect Ionia Avenue to Division Avenue. Construction is expected to finish in July.
With the on-ramp closure, westbound drivers will be detoured via Michigan Street to the Lane Avenue on-ramp. Eastbound drivers will be detoured via Michigan Street to the College Avenue on-ramp. The Ionia Avenue eastbound I-196 on-ramp will reopen in late April.
Ionia Avenue through traffic will be detoured to Michigan Street to Monroe Avenue to Mason Street.
The project came out of the Michigan Street Corridor Plan, which was completed in 2015 and recommended changes for the Ottawa-Ionia I-196 interchange. Reconstruction on the Ottawa Avenue off-ramp, in relation to the plan, was completed in 2017.
Suzanne Schulz, the city’s managing director of design, development and community engagement, said the plan aims to alleviate congestion on Michigan Street, also related to the high activity along the Medical Mile corridor.
“This is a rapidly growing and regionally significant corridor that will only become busier,” Schultz said. “The street could not be widened, so we examined the street network to see what we could do differently.”
Among a number of different approaches was the recommendation to better integrate the Ottawa-Ionia freeway interchange into the city’s street grid to provide better freeway access without forcing traffic onto Michigan Street. With the project, those wanting to access westbound I-196 will be able to do so via Division Avenue.
“Right now, the only way to get on westbound (I-196) is you have to be on Michigan Street,” Schultz said. “Now, you could do it from Michigan Street and Division.”
In addition to the new westbound I-196 on-ramp, the project will:
Reconstruct Ionia Avenue from Michigan Street to the city’s Ionia North parking lot
End Ionia Avenue south of the Ionia North parking lot
Provide access to Division Avenue from Michigan Street via Ionia Avenue
Convert Ionia Avenue to a two-way street between the Ionia North parking lot and Fairbanks Street
Remove on-street parking on the west side of Ionia Avenue between the Ionia North parking lot and Fairbanks Street. Parking on the east side of the street will be maintained.
Remove all on-street parking on Ionia Avenue between Michigan Street and the westbound I-196 on-ramp
Remove the sidewalk on the west side of Ionia Avenue between Michigan Street and the westbound I-196 on-ramp and replace it with one on the east side of the street
Division Avenue will be closed between Michigan Street and the westbound I-196 on-ramp in June. Northbound Division Avenue traffic will be detoured to Crescent Street to Ionia Avenue to Michigan Street to Monroe Avenue to Mason Street. Southbound Division Avenue traffic will be detoured to Mason Street to Monroe Avenue to Lyon Street.
The city partnered with the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Grand Valley Metro Council and Grand Valley State University after the completion of the Michigan Street Corridor Plan to further analyze the recommended changes for the interchange.
The $1.87-million project is funded by:
$1.2 million from the city’s Vital Streets fund.
$359,620 from the Grand Valley Metro Council’s transportation improvement program.
$312,500 from MDOT.
$16,794 from the city’s capital fund.