ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. — The Gun Lake Tribe will pay for the majority of a redesign coming to the US-131 and M-179 highway interchange near the casino in a partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Construction began Monday on the interchange located near the highway exit to the Gun Lake Casino.
The Gun Lake Tribe has agreed to pay $20 million of the roughly $25 million price tag.
“Unprecedented generosity," John Richards, communications representative for MDOT, told FOX 17 Tuesday. "It's really gonna benefit, you know, not only the tribe but the whole area, and all Michigan too.”
Richards said that because the interchange is still structurally sound, it wouldn't have been up for a redesign or upgrade for several years.
The tribe approached MDOT about 3 years ago to discuss the possibility of forming a partnership in order to have the interchange redesigned sooner.
“There's bridges around us that had been replaced, you know, Martin, Dorr, Wayland... not this one yet," said John Shagonaby, CEO of the Gun Lake Tribal Gaming Authority.
"We were really curious about that, so we did our research and found out there's a whole process that wasn't in our favor.”
Shagonaby says despite the obstacles caused by the pandemic, they are still in a good position to move forward with the partnership and project.
"We really wanted to find a great partner in M-DOT and move this up, and we're putting our money where our mouth is,” he told FOX 17 Tuesday.
The interchange redesign will see the bridge made wider, and bigger in general. It will be made into a SPUI—a single point urban exchange.
The project is estimated to take about two years, shooting for a fall 2022 completion date. Richards says traffic should remain at least partially open through the winter, with minimal overnight and weekend closures.
Richards says the fact that Gun Lake will be covering much of the cost will open up funds that would have been used in a redesign in the future, and allows them to utilize it for other things—potholes, rehabbing other bridges, etc.
Shagonaby told FOX 17 Tuesday afternoon, “We want everybody to be safe when they come to the reservation and enjoy good times at a casino or a better trip on the way home; you don't have to wait for traffic.”