GRAND RAPIDS — A handful of upcoming road construction projects may alter the logistics for businesses and weekday commutes for workers.
The biggest is the $19.3 million bridge reconstruction project along both sides of I-196, the city’s major east-west highway.
According to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), preliminary work on this project will get underway next month and take 13 months to complete. Four bridges will be rehabbed and widened on eastbound I-196 — those at Lane, Stocking, Seward and Broadway avenues — along with two more on the westbound side at Stocking and Seward.
A new weave-and-merge lane will be built on eastbound I-196 from Lane Avenue to the U.S. 131 junction, an interchange that will be closed for most of the construction period. The freeway’s guardrails will also be upgraded from Indian Mounds Drive to U.S. 131.
MDOT reported that two lanes of traffic will be kept open on each side of I-196 during construction, but the highway’s ramps to and from southbound U.S. 131 will be closed.
Stephanie Litaker, MDOT’s regional communications representative, told the Business Journal last week that a detour will be posted.
She said those headed east on I-196 that need to go south on U.S. 131 should take the I-196 Market Street exit and then enter U.S. 131 on Market Street. “It’s basically the same route that we used during the S-Curve work,” she said.
An alternate route isn’t needed for those who head north on U.S. 131 after traveling east on I-196 because that interchange will remain open during construction. “Northbound will be open; it’s just the southbound [ramp] that will be closed,” said Litaker.
Besides the southbound U.S. 131 ramp, both Lane and Turner avenues also will be closed for most of the project’s duration. But at least one lane of traffic will be kept open on Stocking, Seward and Broadway avenues. By the way, MDOT said about 64,000 vehicles travel over this section of I-196 each day.
Starting in May, reconstruction will begin at the intersection of M-11 and M-37, a corner better known as 28th Street and the East Beltline.
The entire intersection will get new concrete, additional left-turn lanes, and longer right-turn lanes.
MDOT advises that the work will be done in quadrants in order to keep one lane of traffic open in each direction, along with the left-turn lanes. But it’s safe to say that commuter traffic and Saturday shoppers will face major slow-downs unless they seek out routes around the area.
The project will cost $2.8 million and be finished in September.
Litaker said MDOT will not post a detour for this project.
“There are so many streets in that area that run parallel to 28th Street, as well as the East Beltline, that it is going to be pretty easy for people to find their way around,” she said. “In situations such as this one, it typically works better to let people find their own route versus trying to direct the traffic in one particular direction.
“If we give them the chance to disperse on their own, congestion isn’t as bad as it is if we try to tell the cars that go through there to take one specific route,” she added.
MDOT estimated that 70,000 vehicles cross the intersection of 28th and the East Beltline daily.
MDOT has three other projects set to get underway in September and each will only take a month to complete.
Northbound U.S. 131 will get $1.3 million worth of pavement repairs and new guardrails from 36th Street to Wealthy Street. Some lanes will be closed during off-peak hours and there will be limited ramp closures.
Work will be done on the ramps at 28th Street and the I-96 interchange. Concrete repairs will be made and an asphalt surface will be laid. Lanes will be closed during overnight hours only. The project will cost $700,000.
Bridge and median repairs will also be made to U.S. 131 at Franklin Street. The passing lanes on both sides of the north-south freeway will be closed during the work, and two lanes on each side will be shut down on some weekends. The project will cost $380,000.