Construction that backed up traffic on US-131 ends Friday

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- West Michigan's traffic jam nightmare is almost over. The lane closure on southbound US-131 from I-96 to Leonard Street in Grand Rapids will be gone by the end of the day Friday, September 23.

So says the project manager, Tanya Pawlukiewicz at the Michigan Department of Transportation. "I received a lot of phone calls this summer," she says. "Some good, some bad."

That's understandable. Traffic jams caused by the project have been daily occurrences in the morning and the afternoon. Sometimes, traffic would back up for miles. Plus, there were long delays on the East Beltline as drivers tried to avoid the construction.

First, there will be double lane closures Wednesday and Thursday nights to remove the concrete barriers. Add some pavement markings, and lanes will be open sometime Friday.

A new lane has been added from Ann Street to Leonard Street. "We call it a weave-merge lane, which essentially it increases capacity when you're heading southbound," says Pawlukiewicz, "so it'll make the morning commute for everybody a lot better."

The right lane will no longer be exit-only at Ann Street, which will relieve a bottleneck that has caused backups for years.

The job was a complicated one since pylons had to be placed 30 to 40 feet deep to support the new lane on the two bridges between Ann and Leonard. But MDOT's goal was to finish the job before ArtPrize, which started Wednesday.

The other major project in the region, the replacement of bridges and redesign of the interchange at I-96 and Cascade Road, is running slightly ahead of schedule, and it looks like it will be done in mid-November, said MDOT spokesperson John Richard.

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