GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- You don't get to drive on the wrong side of the road until the end of 2016.
Work on the interchange at I-96 and Cascade Road will be suspended until spring of next year, so drivers will not use the unusual "diverging diamond interchange" design until the project is finished at the end of 2016.
In the DDI design, traffic over the expressway switches sides for easier access to exit and entrance ramps. For a short stretch, drivers find themselves on the left side of the road instead of the right side. That eliminates long waits for drivers who seek to make a left turn.
"It will improve operations on Cascade and make it a lot safer," said Michigan Department of Transportation Grand Region spokesperson John Richard.
The redesign of the interchange was not, however, the main reason for construction, said Richard. "The whole project is being driven by the condition of the existing bridge." Built in the early 1960s, the bridge was simply worn out. The ramp configuration is also obsolete.
The new interchange will have two new bridges and new ramp designs.
But the biggest change drivers will experience will be the DDI, but MDOT is not worried that drivers will be confused.
"Because the road is divided, I really don't think that driving on the opposite side of the road is really going to be impactful for the drivers," said MDOT engineer Christopher Van Norwick, who was involved in the design process. "There's a chance that they'll be through the diverging diamond interchange before they realize that they were on the opposite side of the road."
Construction in 2016 will include completion of the first new bridge and moving Cascade Road traffic onto the new bridge while the original bridge is demolished and replaced. All the while, work on the ramps will proceed, including construction of an extended deceleration lane on eastbound I-96 to allow more room for drivers to get out of traffic lanes and slow down as they exit.
Most of the traffic disruption in 2016 is expected on Cascade Road. Only occasional disruption is expected on the freeway.