Grand Rapids construction complicates commute

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Rush hour has become a game of strategy for people driving through Grand Rapids.

As Michigan Department of Transportation crews work on a monthslong project on westbound I-196 downtown, some drivers are choosing to weave through the city to avoid construction congestion.

Traffic maps were littered with red Wednesday evening, a sign of the standstill all around the area.

“I don’t like bumper-to-bumper traffic,” Grand Rapids resident Brenda Hatter said.

As she pumped gas into her car near Michigan Street and College Avenue, she explained that she was not headed towards the highway nor downtown.

Hatter said she navigates the side roads.

“I’ve gone all around the world just to go two blocks,” Hatter said.

The westbound closure starts just after the Ottawa Avenue exit. The posted detours take drivers along I-96 to US-131. Another alternative takes drivers through the south side of the area on M-6.

Some drivers choose to take I-196 west until the Fuller or College avenue exits then weave through city roads.

“It’s maybe too much detour information,” Herb Seamons said, “too much stuff going on at once.”

Seamons, a Grand Rapids native, said he understands the work will bring benefits, but he wishes city officials didn’t have other construction projects going on simultaneously.

“The city needs to look at more closely. They make it worse,” Seamons said.

For example, he believes the project in front of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel adds more of a headache because drivers often sit through multiple lights without moving.

“You can’t get around the person trying to turn left on Pearl, which is already backed up,” Seamons explained.

He said the closure trickles into several downtown roads, impacting traffic for hours.

Seamons’ secret is avoiding main roads like Michigan and Fulton streets.

“There’s shortcuts, if you know about them — and I’m not sharing — but there’s shortcuts,” Seamons said.

The MDOT project is not expected to wrap up until August. It’s widening the bridge over the Grand River, adding lanes and easing traffic congestion around the US-131 interchange.

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