MDOT to share plans for US-31 relocation project at open house

NOW: MDOT to share plans for US-31 relocation project at open house

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. – After more than four decades of development, the Michigan Department of Transportation will be completing the US-31 relocation project.

On Thursday night, MDOT will host an open house to share plans for the US-31 connection to I-94 before construction begins next summer.

The construction was approved in a 1981 Final Environmental Impact Statement, but after much progress, the project came to a halt in early 2002. The delay was due to the threat of harming the habitat of an endangered butterfly. For 15 years, the plan sat on a shelf while waiting for proper funding

Starting in the summer 2020, MDOT will take on the $111 million project to finish the connection of US-31 from Napier Avenue to I-94.

The project features a long list of improvements to I-94, US-31 and I-94BL in Berrien County, in addition to the relocation of US-31.

According to MDOT, here’s the work that you can expect:

·        Reconstructing 3.1 miles of I-94 from existing six lane divided freeway to barrier separated eight lane freeway

·        On I-94, enclosed median with concrete barrier by adding an auxiliary lane in each direction from new US-31 connection to I-196

·        Reconstructing all ramps at I-196 interchange

·        Reconstructing and realigning 1.6 miles of I-94BL

·        Constructing 2.0 miles of US-31 to new four lane divided freeway

·        Removing Highland Avenue and I-94BL over I-94 bridges

·        Constructing two new cul-de-sacs on Highland Avenue on each side of I-94.

·        New US-31/I-94/I-94BL interchange over I-94

·        Reconstructing Territorial bridge over I-94

·        Rehabilitating Benton Center Rd bridge over I-94

·        New bridges at Empire Ave, Britain Ave, and Benton Center Rd over US-31

Drivers are more than ready to experience free-flow traffic after being teased about the project for more than 40 years.

Michigan driver Terrance Bannister says he’s looking forward to the completion of the US-31 relocation project.

“I’d like to see it get done just as soon as possible. I travel it pretty much every day from Buchanan to South Haven, and uh it’s becoming quite a hassle to get off the highway then get back on the highway, and I lose quite a lot of time that way,” Bannister said.

According to MDOT, this is how the construction will be affected:

·        Construction will take place in stages to minimize the disruption to motorists and residents.

o   On I-94, two lanes of traffic will be maintained in each direction on one bound separated by a temporary concrete barrier.

o   Highland Ave will be closed over I-94

o   Construction of I-196/US-31 interchange ramps will be staged so access in maintained

o   Territorial bridge will be closed, and traffic detoured during construction of the bridge

·        Details will be available closer to the start of construction.

MDOT Spokesperson Nick Schirripa says the department is excited to finally be able to deliver and finish the project. “It’s a big step for us, and certainly a big step for the public who’s been asking for it for more than a decade,” he said.

Thursday night’s open house style meeting will walk the public through each piece of the project before construction begins. It will take place at Benton Township Hall from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The public can stop in at any time to look at displays and videos for each piece of the project. MDOT officials will be available to answer any questions.

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