By CORTNEY ERNDT
Capital News Service
LANSING – The Department of Transportation (MDOT) anticipates less traffic congestion when the M-231 bridge, forecasted to be the sixth-longest bridge in Michigan, is done in three years.
The bridge will measure about 3,700 feet long and 47 feet high, MDOT said.
After construction, M-231 will stretch 7 miles and connect M-45 (Lake Michigan Drive) to I-96 and M-104.
MDOT Director Kirk Steudle said, “Just the crossing of the Grand River will be huge from a mobility standpoint.”
Steudle said there are currently 20 crossings of the Grand River in Kent County.
MDOT Grand Region communications representative John Richard said it will be the fourth Grand River crossing in Ottawa County.
Construction of the bridge began in 2012 and is estimated to be completed and open to traffic by 2016. However, the exact timetable depends on funding.
“We incrementally kind of go along with funding,” Richard said, “We are not going to open up until the final project is finished.”
Gov. Rick Snyder proposed in his 2014 budget replacing the 19-cent-per-gallon state tax on unleaded fuel and 15-cent-per-gallon tax on diesel with a single 33-cent-per-gallon tax on both. That would raise an additional $728 million per year.
Snyder also proposed a 25 percent increase in vehicle registration fees for large trucks and trailers, and a 60 percent increase for cars and light trucks. This would raise an additional $508 million per year.
MDOT said it needs an additional 35 cents per day from every registered vehicle in the state to maintain a “good” highway system.
Steudle said, “If the Legislature and the executive branch are not successful this time around, it may be a while” before the bridge is completed.
Steudle said those against the gas tax “must be in favor of poor roads.”
MDOT said Michigan’s gas tax revenue declined more than $100 million total from 2001 to 2011.
After funding becomes available, Richard said the bridge will “relieve a lot of congestion from US-31 and it’ll increase response time for first responders.”
Without M-231, Grand Haven faces heavy traffic congestion. “Especially in the summer, of course,” Richard said.
Grand Haven hosts more than two dozen festivals and events throughout the year and is officially designated as “Coast Guard City, USA” by Congress.
Grand Haven Chamber of Commerce President Joy Gaasch said the bridge will have a slight impact on local residents and will not benefit Grand Haven’s attractions, like the Coast Guard Festival.
“I think you’ll see local traffic increase along current US-31,” Gaasch said, “Our area is a destination. Construction will create some challenges, but people always find a way to get here.”
As a part of the project, improvements to the I-96, 112th Avenue and M-104 interchange were completed in 2012.
Work on the existing US-31 planned for 2018 includes about 3 miles of reconstruction and widening from Lakewood Boulevard to Quincy Street in Holland Township, and approximately 1 mile of reconstruction and widening in Grand Haven, from Franklin Street to Jackson Street, according to MDOT.
By CORTNEY ERNDT