GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Roadwork began April 20 on I-96 in Grand Rapids, and now, “if the weather cooperates,” the ramp from Plainfield Avenue to westbound I-96 will reopen by late next week. And another freeway project near Rockford is drawing closer to completion.
That’s according to Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman John Richard. He tells FOX 17, “Crews will try their best to finish up, but it all hinges on Mother Nature.” But it wasn’t the weather that put the brakes on roadwork recently. A labor dispute stalled numerous road projects around the state until a resolution was reached September 27 between the Operating Engineers Local 324 union and contractors who are members of the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association (MITA).
Beginning last spring, the eastbound lanes of I-96 were closed for construction work between Plainfield Avenue and US-131 for a few months, before reopening. Then, the westbound lanes of I-96 were closed in that stretch. M-DOT had projected the westbound lanes to reopen by late summer, but the road-construction dispute delayed road work, starting the day after Labor Day (Sept. 4) and lasting more than three weeks. Despite the impasse, the westbound lanes reopened September 14. Governor Rick Snyder had called the delay in road construction “unacceptable”.
The work stoppage delayed completion of more than 100 freeway projects around the state, including one in Algoma Township near Rockford. Northbound US-131 traffic between 10 Mile Road and 14 Mile Road has been shifted over to the southbound side of the freeway for a couple months. Prior to that, southbound traffic was shifted over to the northbound side during the spring.
Meanwhile, in August, another big project involving I-96 got underway, but it was not delayed due to the impasse between MITA and OE-324 union. That project in Grand Rapids will see the reconstruction of I-196 (the Gerald R. Ford Freeway) between I-96 and Fuller Avenue. The I-96/I-196 split near the East Beltline often is traffic-congested during peak drive times, with motorists having to cross over several lanes. That project is scheduled to conclude in 2020.
The union’s contract had expired in June,