By Eric Finkler
Grand Ledge Gazette staff writer
GRAND LEDGE, MI – Equipment is put away, roads are cleared, and dust is settled as the lengthy construction project in Grand Ledge that has been afflicting drivers and residents is finished.
Beginning on May 21, Mayor Smith said, Grand Ledge faced its largest construction effort since the High Bridge project in 1888.
After seven months of detours and unknown traffic conditions, residents and visitors became construction free three weeks ago in the middle of November.
Cause for construction
The intersection of South Bridge and South Jefferson streets the roads needed to be upgraded to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This then lead to a full-scale update of underground water mains, sewage pipes, storm sewage pipes, gas lines and even wider sidewalks.
“Had we only repaved the roads,” Mayor Smith said, “it would have cost the city a lot more in the long run had this old equipment broke. It, financially, made sense just to do it now.”
East Jefferson and South Clinton streets were redone and made slimmer; the project converted four lanes after the project into three. City Councilman Don Willems said it was known as a “road diet” because it cuts down on the width of the roads.
Affording the project
The entire construction was completed with very little expense to Grand Ledge due to state grants and because it fell under the Michigan Department of Transportation’s highway trunkline system.
Because Jefferson Street (M-100) is part of MDOT’s trunkline system, the state pays for its repairs and not the local government.
The state also paid for the sewer, storm sewer, water pipes, electric wires and gas pipes laid down on Jefferson Street,” Willems said, “which they really didn’t have to do. The city paid for the widening of the sidewalks with tax money.”
Larry Lahaie, the public service director of Grand Ledge said that the state paid for 80 percent, a state grant paid for 10 percent and Grand Ledge taxes paid for the final 10 percent.
Delays of the project
Mayor Smith originally had planned the entire project to take place from May 21 to the middle of October, but there were several complications.
When attempting to widen the sidewalks on East Jefferson Street the work was delayed because construction crews could not remove the telephone and electricity poles as quickly as they had hoped.
The sidewalk project had even more trouble when construction workers had found a gas line originally buried incorrectly that then took time to set it deeper underground.
When the construction made it to the McDonald’s property located on South Clinton Street, the construction crew had to get easement to work on the property. Obtaining the rights took about six months.
The rights had been given the day McDonalds started being demolished. Once obtaining permission from McDonalds the city began looking to the construction company to finish the sidewalk in front of the property.
“Now in early November,” Mayor Smith said, “the contractor was hesitant to begin working again, because his employees were mostly seasonal, and he had laid off a good amount.
The gap in the pavement is still there, and if we don’t finish it soon we will probably lay some gravel and lime over it for the winter and finish it in the spring.”
Resident issues throughout the project
Mayor Smith said both motorists and residents have complained about the traffic congestion and detours that come with major construction projects.
“There are always complaints,” Mayor Smith said, “however none came from those who lived in the construction zone.
Most of the complaints concerned the detour route Jenne Street because of the schools located on the road. Some also came from other roads that were used to shortcut the construction.
Jennifer Kelley who lives on Jenne Street said the biggest problems were late night drivers and speeders.
“Most of the traffic doesn’t stick with the 25 mph.” Kelley said, “Having so many schools in the area there’s a lot of kids, in the summertime particularly, that are out playing at the basketball court and just running around, you didn’t really see a lot of kids out during summer because many parents, I think, shared my fear. My concern was kids crossing the street.”
Lori Fletcher, one of Kelley’s neighbors, watched her grandson this past summer and said she didn’t like the people speeding and the increase in traffic.
Kelley nor Fletcher complained to the city about it, citing that so many people on the street already had.
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