GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It’s a staple of the Grand Rapids skyline and part of a main road for more than 110,000 cars and trucks traveling north and south through West Michigan every day.
“You say ‘The S-Curve,’ everybody knows you’re talking about Grand Rapids,” MDOT spokesman John Richard says.
Now, as MDOT gets ready for a study looking at the Highway 131 corridor through Kent County, Parking Commissioner Andy Guy, a member of the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks. wants to get rid of the S-Curve – the elevated section of 131 between I-196 and Franklin St. that passes through downtown Grand Rapids.
In an email to FOX 17 on Tuesday, Guy outlined the need for “more appropriate and visionary urban infrastructure” and stresses how important it is that “the inevitable future public investment in the 131 highway supports and enhances – rather than obstructs – the revitalization of our City and her neighborhoods.”
The group says that something like an at-grade boulevard through the city could bring more vitality and life to the urban core. They aren’t committing to one solution, though. Guy says the proposal is meant to start a “community-driven conversation” about change.
But Richard says the change would just be too expensive.
“Just upgrading the connecting freeways alone would be in the billions of dollars,” he says.
The curve underwent a $145 million rebuilding project in 2000.
Taking away the stretch could also cause problems for people already on the ground.
“Grand Valley State – for example – their campus is split by the S-Curve,” Richard says. ”They can walk underneath it. If they brought it down to an at-grade boulevard, they’ve got to cross a busy street to get to another part of campus. So it’s just little things like that that would have a huge ripple effect.”
But maybe there’s a way to make it all work.
“You can create a lot of urban space by removing some of those interchanges,” Richard says. ”If you remove some of those interchanges and keep 131, you could revamp, say, Division, for example. Widen that.”
“That would be a little more feasible than ripping down the S-Curve all together.”
Guy says the design people in the group are working on a conceptual vision of what the city would look like without the S-Curve to contribute to the corridor study.
The study is set to begin later this spring.