This Summer It’s Drivers Beware

GRAND RAPIDS — The saying goes that Michigan has two seasons: winter and road construction.

Get ready for the snow to melt.

The Kent County Road Commission and the Michigan Department of Transportation have lined up an array of road projects, including major work that promises to tie up U.S. 131 going north from downtown Grand Rapids, rebuilding and widening Northland Drive, plus fixing parts of 28th Street and upgrading Patterson Avenue.

MDOT’s plans for U.S. 131 are sure to trigger traffic jams and delays for drivers from April to October, despite plans to keep lanes open. The U.S. 131 plan comprises three separate projects, but the big one is reconstruction of 2.3 miles of the northbound side of the highway between Ann Street and North Park streets. That reconstruction will require a lane shift, but MDOT plans to maintain two southbound lanes.

For a new concrete overlay on northbound U.S. 131 from West River Drive to 10 Mile Road, MDOT plans to maintain two lanes in each direction for most of the April-through-August work on the 6.4-mile stretch, with occasional lane closures nights and weekends, MDOT spokeswoman Dawn Garner said. There also will be lane shifts and rolling closures of the highway’s three interchanges in that section: West River Drive, Post Drive and 10 Mile Road. For part of the project, one northbound lane will shift to the southbound side as a through-lane without access to exit ramps in the construction zone.

Along two miles of northbound U.S. 131 from Pearl to Ann streets, concrete pavement repairs and bridge joint replacements will demand weekend lane closures from May to August.

And when you finish slogging through U.S. 131 in Grand Rapids, Comstock Park and Rockford on your way up north, 9.8 miles of resurfacing starts at the south junction of M-46 to Montcalm County’s Cannonsville Road, bringing the highway down to one lane in each direction.

Another major project will reroute downtown Grand Rapids drivers. MDOT will rebuild and widen the Michigan Street bridge over Division Avenue, MDOT engineer Tom Tellier said. The bridge on the Michigan Street Hill will be down to one lane in each direction, and there may be detours. Division Avenue (Business Route 131) under the bridge will be closed and rerouted as well, he said. The project is requiring coordination with the large amount of medical building construction underway on Michigan Street. That project is slated to begin in April and last into the fall.

Other MDOT projects in Kent County:

**Traffic will be down to one lane in each direction on I-196 on Grand Rapids’ West Side for various bridge repairs from July to October. Those bridges span the railroad tracks, Butterworth Avenue, Bridge Street, Lane Avenue and Valley/Garfield Avenue.

**Work on the bridge over I-96, April to July, is expected to require a detour in the Dean Lake Avenue and Three Mile Road area.

**28th Street will see nighttime lane closures in June and July for resurfacing between Kalamazoo and Broadmoor avenues. Also, Broadmoor will be resurfaced from 28th Street to 29th Street.

**West of Cedar Springs, 10 miles of 17 Mile Road (M-46) between M-37 and U.S. 131 will be resurfaced between July and September with daily lane closures.

**The busy Alpine Avenue corridor will be affected by 2.5 miles of resurfacing from Three Mile Road to Alpine Church Street from September to November, which may see nightly lane closures.

**Also, north county residents who are still rejoicing about last fall’s re-opening of the Northland bridge will be squeezed again on Northland Drive in fall 2007. MDOT plans to resurface 2.2 miles between West River Drive and Belding Road from September to November, prompting some lane closures.

The Road Commission’s projects total $11.3 million, with the commission picking up $5.5 million and federal funds covering the remainder:

**Northland Drive between 12 Mile and 13 Mile roads, expansion and construction: $1.6 million. Road Commission Managing Director Jonathan Rice predicts the work will last “all summer. That’s a major project.” He said the project will expand the two-lane road to two lanes in each direction with a left-turn lane, matching the type of roadway it is south of 12 Mile.

**Division Avenue between 68th and 76th streets, expansion and construction: $2.1 million. This project, another summer-long event, will extend the left-turn lane south of 68th Street. The Road Commission is coordinating with the chambers of commerce, townships and businesses to include their streetscape installation at the same time. The streetscape will include sidewalks, lighting, benches and landscaping.

**Patterson Avenue between 28th and 36th streets, resurfacing: $750,000. Rice said traffic will be maintained through this project, which he expects will take six weeks. Those who would rather avoid it can skirt around the airport by taking I-96 to 36th Street, he noted.

**Patterson Avenue between 92nd and 100th streets, reconstruction: $950,000. This is the next phase of the Road Commission’s effort to make Patterson an all-season road for trucks that need to travel regardless of winter weight restrictions on local roads. This network already extends into other counties, Rice said. Through-traffic will be detoured during the summer-long project, he said.

**Cascade Road from 36th Street to Whitneyville Avenue, resurfacing: $400,000.

**28th Street between Kraft Avenue and Cascade Road, resurfacing: $1.3 million. “We’ll maintain a minimum of two lanes through there all the time we’re doing that,” Rice said. He said Cascade Township will be doing sewer work at the same time, and the whole project should take six weeks.

**68th Street from Kalamazoo to Division avenues, resurfacing: $600,000.

Various other locales will see bridge maintenance, overlays and surface treatments for an additional $1.2 million.

“Just be careful and be patient,” Rice advises motorists. “Sometimes we don’t think we have enough money to maintain the system, and we probably don’t. But when the barrels start coming out, people think we’re doing too much at one time.”    

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