May 2009 Archives

I-96: Bridge work means lane and ramp closures

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Lane closures and ramp closures continue to affect the interchange at I-96 and US-131.

LANE CLOSURES: Beginning Friday (5/29) 8 p.m. and continuing through June 15, I-96 will be reduced to one lane between ALPINE AVE and the COIT AVE bridge eastbound and westbound. Expect backups or at least slower traffic during all daylight hours.

RAMP CLOSURE: During this period, the ramp from southbound US-131 to westbound I-96 will be closed. The detour: continue on southbound US-131, exit at ANN ST, left (south) on TURNER AVE to ANN ST, left (east) to US-131, left (north) to US-131, cross three lanes of traffic to be sure you are in the left lanes to exit to westbound I-96.

This is the second half of the project that is repairing 11 bridges between Alpine Avenue and Coit Avenue. The whole project is scheduled to be finished by the end of June.

I-96 Traffic backup WB 500x.jpg(Traffic backs up between Plainfield Avenue and US-131 during a recent lane closure on I-96.)

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I-196 Ramp closed

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The ramp from COLLEGE AVE to westbound I-196 is closed from 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 27, until July 1.

Detour: MICHIGAN ST west to the OTTAWA AVE entrance ramp to westbound, or MICHIGAN ST east to the FULLER AVE entrance ramp to westbound.

I-196 resurfacing in Allegan County

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Your stimulus dollars at work.

A $22 chunk of Michigan's share of stimulus money is being used to repave a big section of I-196 in Allegan County.

Expect lane closures through the summer months on I-196 in both directions between the locations where the freeway crosses paths with 118th Avenue and 71st Street. That's from just north of Glenn Exit 30 to south of Exit 26.

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I-94 still closed in Battle Creek

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I-94 logo 100x100.jpg
Eastbound I-94 continues to be closed at Riverside Drive.

The established detour continues: exit at Capital Avenue Exit 97, east on Beckley Road (which will show up on GPS or online maps as "B Dr N," then north on M-66.

Expect backups during all daylight hours.

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Ramp from EB I-96 to M-21/Fulton St Closed

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I-96 logo small.jpgThe ramp from EASTBOUND I-96 to M-21/Fulton St will be closed from 11 a.m. today (5/26) until June 24 for reconstruction. Detour: exit at EAST BELTLINE, south to FULTON ST. (That is not a perfect solution, since it requires you to dash across several lanes to make it to the EAST BELTLINE exit. The safer option will cost you a couple of extra minutes: exit at LEONARD ST, east on LEONARD ST to EAST BELTLINE, south to FULTON ST.

New week, new traffic patterns.

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05-17-09 I-94 backup 320x180.jpg

Today finds I-94 eastbound still closed at Riverside Drive in Battle Creek. Last Thursday, crews discovered that bridges carrying freeway traffic over Riverside Drive had settled dangerously. The westbound bridge was cleared for traffic Friday night; the eastbound bridge needs extra reinforcement.

I talked to Nick Schirripa of MDOT in Kalamazoo. He told me it is everyone's highest priority to get at least one lane of that bridge open by the Memorial Day weekend, when everybody with a picnic basket and a cooler will hit the road at some time over those three days.

The snag? The piece of equipment that would do that job is at the World Trade Center construction site in New York City. The machine has something to do with "micro-piles," which sounds like an embarrassing medical condition but apparently can hold up bridges.

While the target date for a lane opening is Friday, Nick is hoping the job gets done before that.

I'm sure you are, too.

Meanwhile, Bridge Street in downtown Grand Rapids is the latest artery to close for construction. The rebuilding will be so complete that the street is closed from the Grand River to Broadway; that's from River House, under US-131, to several blocks west of US-131. Even the intersection of Bridge Street and Scribner Avenue will remain closed, so anyone seeking access to River House or Bridgewater Place will have to approach on Scribner Avenue from the north to get into the parking ramp.

Also, overnight lane closures will be in place on US-131 northbound in Allegan County from the Shelbyville exit to the Wayland exit. Overnight lane closures for patching and paving will also be in place on US-31 northbound from Lake Michigan Drive M-45 to Grand Haven.


Bridge Street in G.R. to be closed for three months.

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As early as Monday, May 18, a major connection between downtown Grand Rapids and the West Side will be closed.

Plans to rebuild Bridge Street and infrastructure beneath the pavement from Broadway to the Grand River will become action that day. I don't know about you, but I have to plan another way to get to the downtown YMCA.

This means increased traffic on the only other downtown routes over the Grand River: Lake Michigan Drive/Pearl Street and Fulton Street.

The closure is expected to last through part of November.

If you are so inclined, the city plans a public meeting/open house to offer details of the project on Monday, May 18, in the River House Club Room, with complimentary parking in the Bridgewater Place parking deck. However, you must approach River House from the north on Scribner Avenue to get to the deck, since the intersection of Bridge Street and Scribner Avenue will be closed.

Cash for Clunkers: Something to Watch

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There has been enough talk and news coverage of the Cash for Clunkers idea that it is easy to believe the program is already in place and ready to help you buy your next new vehicle.

Hold your horsepower, there, pardner. Ain't nothing doin' yet.

The basic idea is to get vehicles that get lousy gas mileage off the road ASAP and give the car business a boost. Depending on your vehicle's officially rated gas mileage and the vehicle you choose to replace it with, you could get either $3,500 or $4,500 toward the new purchase. You would not see the money: it would be paid via electronic transfer directly to the dealer.

But this is all "maybe."

USA Today recently did a good Q&A on the idea and the bills that are proceeding through Congress. Among the interesting points:

  • Environmentalists, who tend to shoot themselves in the foot as often as make progress, could block the whole deal because they don't think it goes far enough in getting rid of old, gas-guzzling, polluting vehicles.
  • If passed in present form, the program would last a year, that's it, which makes sense. It would be one of the few government programs that actually would end.
  • Your vehicle must get 18 mpg or less, but it must be rated at that gas mileage by the government. My question is, if my minivan gets 17mph--which it does--that's because it is 13 years old; its EPA rating when new was way higher. What about that?

Even though I am not in the market to replace my dependable old minivan yet, I'll be watching this one. It's not every day you could get that much money knocked off your price.

Here's the USA Today Q&A.

Monday Moanin' Construction Update

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I hate it when this happens.

I spent the entire morning warning you that eastbound I-196 would be reduced to one lane between US-131 and College Avenue today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

As I write this at 9:50 a.m., I see on the MDOT cam pointed at that location, Hospital Hill, that traffic is moving merrily along, because the left lane closure hasn't happened.


Look! There's no lane closure! 

US-131 at 196 on 05-11-09.jpg

Okay, I'm over that now.

Here is a rundown of new construction this week:

ALPINE AVENUE (M-37 - Pavement patching now through the end of the month. Crews will be working from Three Mile Road to 18 MIle Road. On two-lane stretches, expect flag crews during daylight hours.

FULTON STREET (M-21) - The right lane eastbound will be closed over the Grand River in Ada until Tuesday afternoon (5/12).

LINCOLN LAKE AVE - The road is closed north of Belding Road (M-44) to Heffron Road through 5/29.

DIVISION AVENUE - The intersection at Hall Street is scheduled to be closed now through 5/21.

Report: Roads are bad. Tell us something we don't know.

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Traffic cones road construction.jpg

This is not a reflection on road workers or the various state departments of transportation, but a new national report says our roads are bad, and that costs us money.


The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and TRIP, a transportation research group, issued a report that had good news and bad news. The good news is that 72 percent of our interstate highway system is in good shape. The bad news is that the stuff that's in bad shape tends to be concentrated in urban areas and can cost us on average an extra $300 to $700 to deal with damage and accelerated deterioration on our cars.

It also costs us more when we delay maintenance on roads until they have to be replaced. For every $1 spent in maintenance of good roads, we are saving $6 to $14 cost for replacing the same road.

In a press release regarding this report, Bill Shreck of MDOT pointed out where Michigan sits on the stats graph:

"In 2004, 10.5 percent of Michigan's roads were in poor condition, but by 2008, that number tripled to 31.4 percent," he says. He notes what we all know: highway spending has declined. And if it continues, Michigan will not be capable of matching federal highway funds offered to us after 2010. If we let that happen, we will lose federal funding offered to us, because that's the deal.

I don't blame people like MDOT for the condition of our roads. They would love to have more room in their budgets to build better roads and keep them up. The problem, and this existed before the recession, is that we taxpayers don't want to pay for good roads. We are unwilling to pay the taxes necessary to build roads that last. We skimp on the materials and road design that would make our roads last literally decades longer.

Compare our roads to those built in Europe. They have freeze-thaw cycles, too. But they pay more in taxes to build their roads to take it.

We don't.

New GPS Software: Safety aid or scofflaw tool?

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I have never believed in radar detectors.

All they are good for is warning drivers of speed traps. In my book, if you're going more than five miles per hour over any speed limit, you deserve the ticket. Radar detectors just let people driver faster than they should. It's situational driving ethics: it's fine if I can get away with it.

So now comes GPS software that informs you, among other things, of the various ways law enforcement is trying to -- gasp! -- enforce the law.

After you pay your money and download the software, then upload it into your GPS unit, you will know where law enforcement has placed cameras at intersections to catch jerks who try to beat the light, where law enforcement has placed radar units to catch jerks speeding.

Oh, sorry. Is my attitude coming through?

Then, let's roll the video instead.

Getting the Giggles

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Oh, my dog would say I deserve the humiliation.

If my dog could talk.

Which she can't.

Or won't.


This morning, just before 6 o'clock, we ran a report from Curt the Cyberguy on how dirty our keyboards and phones and desks and offices are. Really dirty. Filthy. Crawling with microbes.

He finished the report with the question, "What is the dirtiest thing in your life?"

Then it was traffic time.

I responded to Curt's answer, the studio crew started to laugh, and because Tracy is recovering from bronchitis and laughing starts coughing fits for him, he dashed out of the room.

That's when I lost it.

The rest is now FOX 17 history ... viewable on the video.

I-196 to Briefly Close

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MDOT says it will close I-196 in the construction zone in the Grandville/Jenison area at the 36th Street overpass. The closure will take place some time between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. tonight (5/5), and it should only last about 15 minutes. Traffic will be detoured to off ramps at 44th Stree eastbound and Chicago Drive westbound.

M-89 Closed in Plainwell; I-96 Lane Closure Shifts to WB

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M-89 100x100.jpgNotice came down this afternoon that a water main break has closed M-89 east of US-131 in Plainwell.

A detour is already set up, using Acorn Street, Industrial Parkway, and 8th Street.

Expect this detour to remain in place through tomorrow (Tuesday, May 5).

I-96 logo 100x100.jpgYou can expect traffic to be consistently slow on I-96 during daytime hours from Plainfield Avenue to the Grand River.

On I-96 around the Grand River, eastbound drivers saw relief this morning. After several weeks of slow traffic and backups, both lanes are open.

But the bridge work continues on the westbound spans over Coit Avenue, Monroe Avenue, and the Grand River. The left lane is closed, so when you approach Plainfield Avenue, get in the right lane. This lane closure is expected to remain through May 21, weather permitting.

To avoid long delays, take I-196 westbound to downtown Grand Rapids, then north on US-131 to I-96. One problem: expect daytime lane closures intermittently on westbound I-196 at College Avenue 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Construction changes on I-96 begin TONIGHT

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I just got off the phone with John Richard of MDOT here in Grand Rapids. He just got a truckload of updates from MDOT engineers that will change your driving experience on West Michigan's freeways. He got the info at the last minute, and that's why I'm giving it to you at the last minute.

I-96 logo 100x100.jpgThe left lane of WESTBOUND I-96 approaching the Grand River will be closed beginning tonight (Fri 5/1) until Thursday, May 21. The remaining available lane will be tight, just like the one-lane chute you have been driving through at the same spot eastbound.

There will be a ramp closure in downtown Grand Rapids on Saturday, and on Friday morning's show, I recommended using the COLLEGE AVE exit, but new information tells me I should NOT have said that.

First, the WESTBOUND I-196 ramp to OTTAWA AVE will be closed Saturday (5/2) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To get to downtown Grand Rapids from westbound I-196, either exit at FULLER AVE and put up with the trip west on Michigan Street or keep going west on I-196, exit at LANE AVE, go under the freeway, re-enter to EASTBOUND I-196, and exit at OTTAWA AVE.

You can't use the COLLEGE AVE exit, because the bridge over I-196 is completely closed until Saturday (5/2) at 7 p.m.

You can use the westbound exit to College Avenue, but you can only go north on College Avenue, so no stopping off at Bagel Beanery from the freeway. At least until Saturday night.

Sorry about the late notice.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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