Major changes to 131, I-96 not a reality, says MDOT

WALKER, Mich. (WZZM) -- A highway project that will impact nearly everyone in Kent County is getting just about every idea thrown at it. The public has been weighing in on U.S. 131 and I-96 reconstruction plans.

But MDOT planner Dennis Kent says unfortunately, most ideas will hold little weight.

The Sharpies came out Wednesday night, marking up 30 or so miles of highway in Kent County with ideas for change.

"We've heard bike lanes over, we've heard pedestrians under," Dennis Kent, MDOT transportation planner.

Kent is talking about the 20-year reconstruction project:

I-96 between Leonard and Fruit Ridge Avenue in Walker and US-131, from Byron Township all the way north of Rockford. Upwards of 170,000 vehicles travel the two highways a day. The hottest topic: the S Curve at Wealthy Street.

"If we get rid of it, what are the ramifications of the traffic?

And one of the most vocal citizens is Mark Miller.

"I've heard that people think we should bury it, maybe we turn it into a boulevard, maybe we keep it the way it is," said Miller.

But Miller isn't vocal in terms of demanding a certain idea; he just wants this one study expanded to five or six scenarios.

"In leui of looking at this as just a traffic piece of infrastructure, we should also look at is an economic development tool," he said. "What is the tax base we would be increasing by removing the freeway. We would be reclaiming land it currently sits on," he said.

But Kent says a study like that needs multiple planners, and this is a roads project with only a set number of dollars to spend.

"Even doing nothing more than replacing what we have with the same thing, a couple of lanes of pavement is pretty expensive," he said.

MDOT'S goal here is to find out where the high-profile areas are so they can study those. Kent says changing the footprint of Kent County just isn't reality.

"Even though we'd like to look at additional scenarios and improvements, until the funding situation changes, there's really not anything we can do besides basic preservation," he said.

Send MDOT your ideas to

MDOT will have a website up soon with information on the study.


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