GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Big changes could be coming to one of the busiest freeways in Grand Rapids. The Michigan Department of Transportation and the City of Grand Rapids are partnering together to potentially modernize US-131.
The changes would include the segment of US-131 between M-11, as well as Wealthy Street near downtown. According to a Planning and Environment Linkages Study, this area is considered a priority zone.
“131 is the busiest expressway in the entire state, outside of Detroit,” said John Richard, MDOT communications representative for the Grand Region.
According to MDOT, US-131 sees about 120,000 vehicles a day. The expressway not only experiences high traffic volumes, but also has aging pavement, bridges and closely spaced interchanges, creating safety concerns.
“What that is going to look like remains to be seen,” said Richard. “We’ve been studying this section of 131, from 28th Street to basically Cherry Street.”
The project is still in its early stages, according to the state. In the past two days, MDOT and the city has held two public meetings, encouraging community feedback on the potential changes.
MDOT said the only holdup to starting the project is funding.
“Just to put into perspective for you, my entire 13-county region, the Grand Region, every year, we get about $100 million to do everything,” said Richard. “That’s bridge replacement, rebuilding, snowplow, salt, everything. Just to rebuild this section of 131, is going to cost about $600 million.”
“At the moment, I think we see a lot of, maybe, economic disparity between the East and West side,” said Evan Krummel, a Grand Rapids resident. “And I think, especially like the underpass option we’re seeing here … I think that option would, kind of, help bridge that gap.”
However, not everyone is for the change. Adam Wieler lives in Boston Square. He said the state should consider focusing on alternative transit options, like trains or bike lanes, instead of creating a new expressway for vehicles.
“It’s great for people who don’t live here,” he said. “But it doesn’t necessarily create economically vibrant neighborhoods where it is, and it’s displaced a lot of folks. So, what would it look like to reimagine that area entirely, especially considering its proximity to downtown, its proximity to the river?”
MDOT also said the potential project will not affect any real estate, for example, the Grand Rapids Downtown Market.
“The way it is now, just to rip out and replace what’s there, the property acquisition would be minimal,” said Richard.