Traverse City News and Events

Snow Now, But Top Road Construction Projects Coming Soon

By Patrick Sullivan | Feb. 26, 2019

From Eighth Street to Fife Lake, there’s lots of roadwork planned for the upcoming Grand Traverse area construction season.

Traverse City motorists will see a late start to the long-awaited Eighth Street overhaul and the reconstruction of as many as four bridges around downtown, while other planned projects include a detour of Garfield Road from Hammond to South Airport roads for a “mill and fill” resurfacing; resurfacing on Three Mile from South Airport to Parsons with traffic maintained; and superstructure replacements of the River Road bridges over the Boardman River. Many other local and county projects are planned across the region, but The Ticker explores some of the biggest ones close to home.

The second biggest project in all of northern Michigan this summer (behind only major work on US-31 through Petoskey) is actually five smaller Traverse City projects: reconstruction of Eighth Street from Boardman to Railroad Avenue ($5.2 million), and the reconstruction of four bridges at West Front Street ($1.6 million), Eighth Street ($1.4 million), South Cass ($1 million), and Park Street ($.7 million). The five projects will be planned in coordination with one another so that road closures will have the least impact on travel through the city, says TC City Engineer Tim Lodge.

Some of the construction timing might be out of the city’s control, however, because of a shortage of contractors willing to bid on the projects. Moreover, none of the designs have been completed yet, so it might be months before they’re submitted to MDOT and sent out for bids.

City Planning Director Russ Soyring says he hopes that all TC projects are completed by the end of the construction season.

Lodge notes that the Eighth Street redesign project is the priority, with a likely schedule set by April and a project launch shortly after the National Cherry Festival in July. The design of Eighth Street is still incomplete. Soyring says it remains undetermined whether the lanes for pedestrian and bicycle traffic will be separated. Consultants are also still working with property owners to work out agreements to close driveways.

Once completed, Eighth Street could be transformed from a crumbling, lackluster thoroughfare into one of the nicest stretches of road in the city. In particular, Soyring is optimistic that a line of trees on each side of the street will one day make the corridor something special.

“It won’t be instantaneous, the shade trees, but over the years it could be a really leafy shady street,” Soyring says. “It could be one of the nicest streets in town.”

Resurfacing work will also occur on 12 miles of M-113, between M-37 and Vans Lane, and will cost $2.4 million. Work is scheduled in two phases: Work west of Kingsley is scheduled for mid-May to early July, and the work east of Kingsley from mid-July to early August.

The resurfacing of a three-mile-long, five-lane section of US-31, from South Airport Road to Rennie School Road in Grand Traverse County, could potentially cause significant disruptions; that segment of the highway serves as a critical link between Traverse City and communities to the south. With that in mind, MDOT scheduled the $1.8 million project to take place at night to minimize inconvenience. The work will require lane closures and traffic shifts that will be controlled by traffic lights. It’s scheduled to begin in June and to be completed in mid-July.

Road resurfacing in Leelanau County will occur on three segments of roadway on M-204 and M-22, between Suttons Bay and Leland, and will also include upgrading sidewalk ramps in Lake Leelanau to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. The project, which includes 8.7 miles of road, will begin in mid-August, run through mid-November, and cost $2.3 million.

South of town, crashes that ended in deaths prompted cries that something needed to be done at the intersection of US-131 and M-186 in Fife Lake Township. Work on a new roundabout is scheduled to begin in mid-April and be completed in late July. The project is expected to cost $1.7 million. Different stages of construction will require traffic shifts, detours, and lane closures with flag control.

The work is expected to make the intersection significantly safer.

Linda Forwerck, Fife Lake Township supervisor, says residents have known “for many years” that something needed to be done. “It has been a very bad intersection, and there’s one curb cut very close to State Street, and that hasn’t helped because people coming out of that business don’t give other people the right-of-way as they should,” she says.

“At first, we talked with MDOT about a traffic light, and actually maybe the roundabout is a better solution,” Forwerck says. “It will give everybody the opportunity to cross that intersection.”

MDOT will host an open house about the roundabout tonight (Tuesday) from 5pm to 7pm at the American Legion Post 219 in Fife Lake.

This article is excerpted from a larger piece about road construction throughout northern Michigan that appears in this week's Northern Express.

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