KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan drivers will soon have a simpler way to commute through the Kalamazoo area with US-131 and Business Loop 131.
The proposed interchange just north of West Main will add access to the Business Loop from Northbound 131, and then to southbound 131 from the Business Loop.
For years, Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Nick Schirripa said the project was delayed primarily due to no available funds.
“This project has been kicked around for decades,” Schirripa explained.
However, House representatives in Lansing recently passed a budget that includes the state’s obligation of $3 million for the proposed interchange.
Schirripa said the state’s portion of the price tag doesn’t complete the funding, but it allows the rubber to meet the road.
“We’ve been able to start preliminary engineering — the design of the project — which means we’ll be able to design it and shelve it,” Schirripa explained. “We’ll have it designed and ready to go.”
Carla Sones with Southwest Michigan First said easier transportation access from the finished interchange can lead to economic growth for companies interested in the city and surrounding areas.
“You start thinking about the cost right now of moving pieces of supply chain and moving materials,” Sones said. “Having that seamless way to get both on and off at 131 is really beneficial for many companies that are already here, but also makes us more marketable for future investment.”
According to MDOT, federal and local funding are still needed to complete the finances for the project, whose final estimates are between $18 and $20 million. $13.5 million will come from Washington if the infrastructure bill passes Congress and is signed by the president. The remaining $500,000 will be allocated among five Kalamazoo County municipalities — Kalamazoo, Parchment, Kalamazoo Township, Cooper Township and Oshtemo Township.
Schirripa said the primary funding for the interchange came from “transportation dollars,” which are fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees. It does not include the gas sales tax.
Construction is expected to start no earlier than 2024. The work is expected to take one to two years to complete.