Michigan Street fix set for vote in Grand Rapids

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — What many consider the gateway to downtown Grand Rapids is a rocky road.

Some motorist try to avoid using portions of Michigan Street all together.

“I try to, yeah. Because usually it’s pretty rough. It has a lot of holes in the road,” said driver Rich Jakubczak, who occasionally uses Michigan Street.

But help is on the way, as long as city commissioners OK a $1.7 million plan to fix a portion of Michigan Street at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting.

“As you can see it’s in really poor condition,” said assistant city engineer Rick DeVries as he walked along part of the bad stretch of the street Friday morning.

The work would involve Michigan Street between Monroe and Ionia avenues. The entire roadway – curb to gutter – would be replaced.

The project would begin in April and should be completed by mid-June.

Traffic would be a mess for the more than 22,000 drivers who rely on the road each day, despite the city’s plan to keep open one lane in each direction and the center turn lane. The ramps to I-196 will be closed during the latter portion of the project.

Work has been underway since last year to realign the confusing lane configuration.

The last time this section of Michigan Street was rebuilt was in 1995.

DeVries says keeping up with maintenance of the concrete roadway was difficult, especially since it sits on a large hill.

“We put a lot of road salt on it in the winter to keep it safe for drivers,” he added.

This time, engineers plan to use asphalt. While concrete is tougher, DeVries says asphalt is easier to maintain.

“It’s more forgiving. And you can mill it and resurface it and those kind of things,” explained DeVries.

Development along Michigan Street is helping fund the project. About half of the $1.7 million price tag will be covered by state economic development grants. Without those grants, drivers may have had to wait even longer for repairs to the street.>>PDF: Grand Rapids’ Vital Streets Plan

The voter-approved income tax for streets has resulted in a sort of triage approach to repairing and replacing bad roads. Roads that are easy and cheaper to fix get priority, with the thought being the city will save money extending the lives of those roads.

“You preserve what’s in good and fair condition… and eventually you get to the streets that need reconstruction,” said DeVries.

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