Work To Open Pill Hill

May 29, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Michigan Department of Transportation began tearing down the four-lane bridge on Michigan Street over Division Avenue in mid-May and will replace it with an all-new six-lane bridge to enhance access to Michigan Street hill.

The $4 million project is part of the Jobs Today Initiative, a three-year program designed to accelerate the pace of state and local infrastructure projects scheduled to begin over the next decade.

While work on the bridge is under way, MDOT is maintaining one lane of traffic on eastbound Michigan Street from Ottawa Avenue to old Division Avenue. Westbound Michigan Street detours from Bostwick Avenue to Ionia Avenue, with one lane open westbound from Coit to Bostwick avenues. That traffic pattern will be in place until September, when one lane of traffic will be open in each direction.

“Drivers will need to be patient with us this year, but once completed, this project will have a tremendously positive impact by improving traffic flow to the Michigan Street hill SmartZone,” said Roger Safford, MDOT Grand Region engineer. “As this area continues to grow, the infrastructure will be in place to support the increased traffic.”

MDOT is rebuilding the bridge with more lane width, wider sidewalks and widened approaches to the bridge. Basically, what’s being added is a right-turn lane for traffic moving eastbound on Michigan, going up the hill, said Dawn Garner, communications representative for MDOT. Downhill, or westbound, there will also be a right-turn lane. In addition, there will be a dedicated bus lane to keep buses out of the flow of regular traffic. Two lanes for through-traffic in both directions will remain, she said.

The biggest challenge to building the bridge anew is the traffic disruption, Garner said.

“It’s such a heavily traveled commuter route,” Garner observed. “There are alternate routes, some of them through residential areas. The main thing is traffic control and maintaining access to the hospital.”

Running concurrently with the Michigan Street bridge replacement is a project that will further improve access to medical facilities on Michigan Street hill. Turn lanes on Division Avenue are being constructed to open access to Michigan Street. A dedicated turn lane on Division Avenue under the bridge is being constructed to accommodate northbound traffic. That lane will allow drivers to turn into the Christman Co.’s new parking structure across the street from the Van Andel Institute. For traffic moving southbound on Division, there will be a dedicated left-hand turn lane onto Michigan Street.

The project is intended to support the medical and life sciences infrastructure on the hill, including the VAI’s expansion, the new parking structure, medical office towers, the Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion, and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital at Spectrum Health.

Work on the Division Avenue turn lanes got under way at the same time bridge reconstruction began. The project is being funded by a $416,000 grant from the Michigan State Transportation Economic Development Fund, which helps finance highway and street projects that are necessary to pave the way for economic development and growth. The Right Place Inc., working on behalf of the VAI and Spectrum, applied for the grant and shepherded it through the award process.

All told, the project will cost $540,000. MDOT and the city are splitting the 20 percent match for the $416,000 grant. MDOT also is providing $57,000 from regional transportation funds, and the city has secured $71,000 from Christman to complete the match.

Garner said both projects will be completed in December.

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