Thinking Summer? Think Construction: Major MDOT Road Projects Ahead

Posted at 5:53 PM, Feb 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-28 21:57:52-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Feb. 9, 2014) — It’s the time of year when most West Michigan drivers are focused on dodging potholes and maintaining control in snowy or icy conditions.

Believe it or not, spring is creeping closer, and with the warmer weather comes construction.

U.S.131 Bridge Reconstruction Project

“This will definitely be the most disruptive project of the season,” said Michigan Department of Transportation  spokesperson John Richard.

Richard is referring to a $4.5 million dollar bridge reconstruction project along US-131 that’s slated to start in July.  The impacted area is along US-31 approximately 1 mile south of Wealthy Street to 1 mile north of Ann Street.

It’s a project that’s been in the planning stages for a couple of years.

“These bridges are old,” said Richard. “Our entire infrastructure is old, it’s aging, so we have to do this rehabilitation. These fixes to add 15 to 20 years to the bridges themselves, because we just don’t have the money to replace them.”

The project is expected to start July 7 and run through Aug. 28, targeting seven bridges along the highway for repairs:

  • Southbound US-131 over Bridge Street
  • The ramp from Northbound US-131 to Eastbound I-196 (over Bridge Street)
  • The ramp from Westbound I-196 to Southbound US-131
  • Southbound US-131 over the Grand River
  • Southbound US-131 over Market Avenue
  • Northbound US-131 bridge from Wealthy Street to Grandville Avenue
  • Southbound US-131 bridge from Wealthy Street to Grandville Avenue

“The major ramps that will be closed will be eastbound I-196 to southbound US-131 and westbound I-196 to southbound U.S.131,” said Richard. “Those ramps will be closed for most of the project.”

Richard adds that the US-131 interchanges at Wealthy Street, Market Street, and Pearl Street will also be effected, but in much shorter durations.

At least two lanes of traffic will be open both directions along US-131 during daytime hours.  At times, nighttime work along the highway will require double-lane closures from Wealthy Street to Grandville Avenue in both directions.

“Southbound US-131 is going to see more of an impact then northbound US-131, much like last year with the brief merge lane project on US-131,” said Richard.  “It’ll mirror that as far as traffic being affected.”

Richard says well over 100,000 vehicles use US-131 a day.  Along I-196, it’s between 70,000 and 80,000 vehicles.

“If there’s a big project like this, it’s always disruptive that first week,” said Richard.  “When we reconstructed that stretch of I-196 a few years back, we shutdown I-196, and that was very well promoted, and people found another way. They took an alternate route, they used a little more time to get to work. So, for this project, we’re asking the same thing.”

“The good thing about this project: it’s pretty quick. It’s going to start after the 4th of July and finish up at the end of August,” said Richard.

Funding for the $4.5 million project is coming from the state/federal match from the gas tax.

Richard says detailed detour and lane closure information will be made available on MDOT’s website.

“It’s really helpful for people to go to our my drive website, they can see current and future lane restrictions for projects as well as other incidents,” said Richard.

Updates are also available on Twitter, and users can sign up for free traffic alerts that go straight to their phone as well.

New Technology: Bridge Swap in Lowell Township

Another major bridge project is scheduled for the upcoming construction season that will only take a few weeks to complete instead of months, thanks in part to new technology.

“This bridge slide is new technology in Michigan,” said Richard.  “I*’s the first time that it’s ever been used in Michigan, and it really cuts down on the down time for traffic. It’s going to save people a lot of time, and it’s going to save people a lot of money.”

Richard is referring to the replacement of the M-50 bridge over I-96 in Lowell Township.

“We’re going to replace the entire thing and widen it,” said Richard.  “We’ll basically more than double the width of that bridge.”

Instead of re-routing traffic for what could take months, construction workers will build the new bridge in a temporary location next to the current bridge.  Traffic will then be diverted to the new bridge while crews demolish the old bridge, then crews will “slide” the new bridge into place.  The new bridge will be built on lubricated skids, allowing the transfer to take place.

“Just two weekends, a typical bridge replacement, you’re talking four or five months, the entire season,” said Richard.  “This will be a detour for just two weekends out of the entire construction season, so that’s the beauty of the bridge slide.”

The construction is similar to the reconstruction of a bridge in Iowa, documented in the videos here:

This is just one of two bridge slide projects MDOT has planned for the upcoming construction season.  A similar project will take place for both the Northbound and Southbound US-131 bridges over 3 Mile Road in Mecosta County.

A final cost estimate for these projects hasn’t been announced yet.