By Jef Rietsma
Details of a two-year, three-phase reconstruction project centering on U.S. 131 were provided by Michigan Department of Transportation officials Oct. 19 in Schoolcraft.
The $57 million 13.5-mile project will start in April in St. Joseph County, continue in spring 2024 north of Schoolcraft to Shaver Road, and conclude in summer 2024 with work concentrated in the village of Schoolcraft.
MDOT’s project manager Sarah Fedders, who oversaw a two-hour public open house at Schoolcraft Municipal Complex, conceded Schoolcraft residents will have their patience tested in 2024. But, she noted, as with any construction project, the benefits will far outweigh the inconveniences once work has concluded.
“There will be a number of safety features, the most obvious will be development of several indirect left turns, also known as ‘Michigan lefts,’” she said. “North of Schoolcraft, the reconfiguration of Shaver Road and U.S. 131 will be another big component of this project.”
The work in Schoolcraft – a phase projected to start in July 2024 – will include a full rebuild of U.S. 131, an upgraded left-turn phase at the Lyons Street traffic signal, and a pedestrian lane to be added at the Eliza Street signal. Work in the village will stretch from the railroad crossing north to Lyons Street.
A detour will involve XY Avenue, South Eighth Street and West U Avenue.
Fedders said the first phase of work will begin in April near Three Rivers.
“The plan is to start at Rocky River and go up to XY Avenue in 2023,” she said, indicating that portion of the project will likely cover the full, April-through-November construction season. “Then, in 2024, go from XY up to Shaver Road. The reconstruction job in the village of Schoolcraft would then happen after July 4 in 2024.”
Fedders said the St. Joseph County portion will involve removal of a top layer to be replaced by a fresh surface. Drainage issues will be addressed and guardrail improvements made at various points.
She said an additional amount of work will be done at U.S. 131’s intersection with Wilbur Road/North Main Street. It, too, will feature Michigan-left turns.
Both northbound and southbound routes of U.S. 131 will be narrowed to one lane in each direction while the St. Joseph County portion of the work is performed, she added.
Fedders said because of the work zone’s length and heavy traffic volume of the route, the project could fairly be considered a major undertaking.
“It’s more than 13 miles long, so that brings it up a level, and it’s a two-season project,” she said. “Some people believe because it’s not on an interstate it’s not a major project, but because so many people will be impacted by the work, it definitely could be considered a major project.”
At the north end of the project, Shaver Road will be a right-turn-only onto northbound U.S. 131. Traffic wishing to head south onto U.S. 131 will have to turn onto a Michigan left, which will be controlled by a traffic signal.
By Jef Rietsma