Meeting on Wednesday will discuss future of busy intersection near Niles

NOW: Meeting on Wednesday will discuss future of busy intersection near Niles

NILES, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Transportation will host a public meeting Wednesday night to discuss a plan that could transform a busy intersection near Niles.

In 2023, MDOT plans to remove two US-12 bridges that run over M-51 in Niles Township.

MDOT already completed a feasibility study and hosted a number of public and stakeholder meetings.

MDOT calls Wednesday’s meeting the next step in the process. Officials will reveal what they call their leading concept and gather more public input.

MDOT’s leading concept would replace the bridges with traffic signals and add indirect left turns or “Michigan left turns.” A spokesperson for MDOT says “Michigan left turns” are when a driver drives through an intersection then make a U-turn at a designated spot a few hundred feet later. The plan would also add indirect left turns at the US-12 and 3rd St. intersection.

MDOT revealed this design and three others at a meeting last year, but says it’s leaning toward this option because MDOT thinks it best addresses safety, traffic flow, and maintenance issues.

MDOT’s option would cost around $9 million.

Nick Schirripa, a spokesman for MDOT, stresses this plan is not set in stone and they still need public input.

“We don’t deal a lot with feelings, we deal with statistics, we deal with data, we deal with the sound engineering best practices, but that only gets us so far,” said Schirripa. “It may get us 90 percent of the way to the finish line, but there’s still a piece of that where we have to be sensitive to the community we’re in.”

Wednesday’s meeting is from 4 to 6:30 p.m. in Community Room 134 at Southwestern Michigan College.

Drivers describe the area as busy, worn down, and accident prone. MDOT says in 2017, 14,400 people drive on the US-12 section and 21,200 people drive on the M-51 section each day. There were also 46 crashes in the area according to data from 2015 to 2017.

Sherri Hartman is the owner of Shampoochie, a dog grooming business about a quart mile from the interchange.

She’s against MDOT’s leading concept because she think it would back up traffic even more. She wants MDOT to rebuild the existing structure.

“My concern is there’s another light less than a block away, so with the semis and the highway traffic, I think there will be a lot of back up congestion if you put the two lights so close to one another,” said Hartman.

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