By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
A 13-mile stretch of US-131 from Shaver Road north of Schoolcraft to Hoffman Road north of Three Rivers is scheduled for a two-year rebuilding and repaving project starting in 2023. Nick Schirripa, a spokesperson from the Michigan Department of Transportation, provided an overview of the project in mid-November to the Schoolcraft Lions Club.
Work done within the Schoolcraft village limits will be extensive, Schirripa said. The road’s surface will be rebuilt, including some utility work. A left turn light will be added at the Lyons Street signal. The Eliza Street signal will be upgraded and will include a pedestrian crossing.
Many adjustments are planned for the miles of highway outside the village limits. MDOT is removing almost all the median crossovers, creating “Michigan lefts.” They require a driver wishing to turn left onto a divided highway to turn right, cross over to a lane next to the median, make a U-turn through the median and left onto the desired direction. Because Johnson Road, midway between Schoolcraft and Three Rivers, is a T-intersection, it will be the only intersection left with a cross-through.
The only intersection with an indirect left-turn or Michigan left that will be signalized will be Shaver Road-U Avenue. The intersection will be redesigned: Northbound US 131 traffic will be stopped for right-turning Shaver Road traffic, then US 131 south-bound traffic will be stopped to allow the Michigan left from Shaver Road. The gaps in traffic will help U Avenue traffic movement.
Many attendees raised concerns about the Shaver Road-U Avenue intersection. Schirripa recognized the concerns and the complexity of the problem. He said that studies have been conducted and the exact location of the loops and signals is still being studied.
Schirripa said improvements will also be made to ditches and culverts. The highway will be repaved with asphalt over the existing concrete. Most of the existing concrete will be repaired and left in place. Some will be replaced.
Schirripa was questioned about business disruption in the downtown district. He stressed that the goal is to “maintain access to homes and businesses throughout construction.” He explained that often on projects of this size, traffic is reduced to two lanes instead of four, allowing work on one side of the highway while cars can pass on the other side.
Schirripa said he didn’t have a final cost for the project, adding MDOT is only about 60 percent done with the project design. The current estimated cost is $45 million dollars, but that is subject to change.
Project plans will be made available to the public in advance of the project. Once construction starts, real-time updates will be available at http://www.Michigan.gov/Drive.
By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe