GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you travel it, you know it.
Getting over or onto US-131 from Wealthy Street can be a challenge.
Not only is the overpass showing its age, but truck drivers also need to master a wide left, tight-to-the-right maneuver just to get on the highway.
“It’s a troublesome interchange. It was built in the 60’s and has got short ramps. It’s got a short turning radius for the trucks,” said MDOT spokesman John Richard.
But there may be some much-needed changes down the road.
Earlier this week, the City of Grand Rapids announced the awarding of a $10 million Michigan Economic Development Corporation grant to begin design and prep work on a reimagined Wealthy Street, US-131 interchange.
The idea is to take the overpass out and run Wealthy Street traffic under US-131.
It’s an impediment for vehicle traffic, and an occasional lost opportunity for businesses, including those north of Wealthy, because of limited vehicle and foot traffic.
“Foot traffic’s very important. It’s great to have the community come in. We like to be a fixture in the community here with events and outreach. It’s nice to have the traffic come through the store,” said Keenan Scribner, general manager of Moosejaw Outfitters on Ionia, between Wealthy and McConnell Street.
The proposed designed change would solve traffic issues and open the corridor up for non-vehicle traffic. That would benefit businesses like Moosejaw.
“Having that connectivity through kind of the whole community, and for bikes as well. That would open it up easier to get to areas like Johnson Park and Millennium Park,” said Scribner.
“We certainly want more traffic. But we also don’t want to forget the non-motorized users,” said Grand Rapids City Engineer Tim Burkman.
“In the state that it’s in today, very difficult to traverse that area on foot. We’re certainly looking to soften it. Return Wealthy to an at-grade state with 131 going over just like many interchanges to the north,” he said.
Burkman warns the project is still years in the future. But rather than just fix the interchange, the idea may help alleviate a long-standing divide in the city.
“We’re looking to take away the divide that the current interchange today between the east and west side,” said Burkman.
There is no timetable for the project. Once they figure out things like the design and how to pay for it, it will be at least five years before a shovel meets the ground.