WAYLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Native American tribe and the state of Michigan officially cut the ribbon on a new overpass bridge in Wayland Township Tuesday.

The Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians funded $20.7 million of the new $23.7 million bridge. It worked with the Michigan Department of Transportation, Ogitch-e-Daa Society, Allegan County Road Commission and state and local officials.

The purpose of the overpass is to make a safer intersection for people who live near and visit Gun Lake Casino, the tribe said.

Bob Peters, Travel Chairman for Gun Lake Tribe, said that the tribe’s partnership with the state was “seamless and smooth.”

“It just goes to show that we’re invested in the community and building up the infrastructure here for our tribe, our tribal community and just the surrounding area,” Peters said.

The bridge was installed at exit 61 of US-131 just north of 129th Avenue. It will replace a double-lane bridge that typically saw 13,000 to 15,000 vehicles a day, but was “aging,” according to a press release from the tribe. The new bridge has capacity for 35,000 vehicles per day.

“Today’s important because the old bridge that we had here was basically falling apart and it was so old and dilapidated,” said Peters. “It’s going to be a great structure for the Gun Lake Casino to keep our patrons safe coming back and forth and just improve the community as a whole.”

The new bridge is a Single-Point Urban Interchange, which is a new type of interchange that safely and efficiently moves a large amount of traffic through a small space. It will merge two intersections into one single intersection, helping traffic flow.

“It’s absolutely beautiful. We could not have done it without the generosity of the Gun Lake Tribe,” said Amy Matisoff, tribal liaison for the state.

The project was completed almost two months ahead of schedule, only taking 18 months to build.

“It really is the dedication of our contractors and our design firms and engineers … Especially when you’re talking about the fact that this was built during the COVID pandemic, it’s very exciting to see that it’s done ahead of schedule. It’s all a representation of their hard work,” said Matisoff.

A “park n ride” lot will also be added on the west side of US-131, north of 129th Avenue.