GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Before tonight's City Commission meeting was adjourned, a motion was approved to start the process to redesign the most dangerous intersection in Kent County.
The project will reconfigure the Wealthy Street interchange at US-131. It's a multi-million dollar project that'll take about five years of planning. According to city documents, Wealthy Street could run underneath US-131.
"This would specifically go towards looking at bringing Wealthy to at grade with 131 going over [it,] so flipping the two," a spokesperson for the plan said at a Tuesday morning fiscal committee meeting. "The redesign is expected to improve traffic operations and safety, reduce delays and congestion and also improve pedestrian circulation through this area."
At the commission meeting, the proposal was approved within the consent agenda. Now, the city is receiving a $10 million grant from the state to fund an environmental review and preliminary engineering and design of the project. The grant will also fund advanced right-of-way acquisition and utilities relocation. The City will manage the project.
The City will then work with the County, MDOT and other groups to consider different design options for the project before a final plan is approved, funded and finalized.
"I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing," House Rules Board Game Lounge owner Brian Beacher says.
His business is right next door to the proposed project. Beaucher says he has mixed feelings about it all.
"What I'd love to see is the south of downtown connected to East Side [and] West Side, without having a highway in the middle," he says.
Beaucher says years of construction could hurt his business.
"I think parking would be an issue. And I know a lot of people just get scared. They're like, 'Oh, that's great. It's under construction, I just wait until it's done,'" he says. "And that would really hurt us, we opened during the pandemic. Business for us has been amazing the past three months. But having a construction project here for a couple years isn't gonna be good. And we're 20 feet from the overpass. So, it's literally right next door."
At the end of the day, though, he knows his customers want more walkability from his bar to other businesses on the West Side.
"I'd love to see the project just done and completed. I don't want to deal with construction," Beaucher says.
According to a 2020 report from Michigan Auto Law, the intersection at US-131 and Wealthy Street was the most dangerous one in Kent County and the third most dangerous statewide.
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