GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Construction on US-131 north of Grand Rapids has caused traffic backups and crashes day after day this week.
"131 in West Michigan is the busiest highway for sure," Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman John Richard told 24 Hour News 8.
MDOT is working on the barrier between southbound and northbound US-131 as a part of a project to add a merge lane between Leonard and Ann streets on the northbound side. This week, crews closed a lane of southbound US-131 from Ann to Leonard, which caught tens of thousands of drivers off-guard.
"That will be in place until Sept. 22. So it is a short-term closure, but it has been very disruptive for the morning commute," Richard said.
Most mornings, traffic backs up all the way to Post Drive in Plainfield Township near Rockford. That is nearly eight miles.
On Tuesday, that backup contributed to a seven-vehicle, chain-reaction crash near Post Drive that resulted in the death of two men.
"Even with advanced warning, motorists don't really realize it is going to take place until they get into it," Richard said.
He advises trying to find another way around the area.
"If motorists can find another route or adjust their schedule a little bit, that makes a big difference," he said.
But drivers say side roads near the highway are backing up, too. Alternative options are Alpine Avenue, Plainfield Avenue or the East Beltline.
"It gets better a little better each day as motorists get used to the lane closure that's in place," Richard said. "This has been the biggest hurdle for motorists. We do appreciate their patience. It is almost done, so hang in there."
If it has funding, according to MDOT, crews will add a merge lane to southbound US-131 between Ann and Leonard streets next year.
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