Road work, water snarl GH traffic at both ends

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:48 AM

Southbound travelers dealt with road repair and lane squeezes, while northbound motorists hit a snag with a water main break.

Traffic was slowed on southbound U.S. 31 just south of the drawbridge all morning and into the early afternoon for pavement repair. Two of the three lanes remained open.

More work is scheduled for today on the highway between Jackson and Elliott streets, including lane closures. The work is weather-dependent.

On the city's south side, police began rerouting northbound traffic shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday when a water main broke at the intersection of Robbins Road and U.S. 31. Water bubbled out of a straight line of cracks and flowed east of the highway into drains for more than an hour.

“The longer that this is allowed to run like this, it will undermine the road,” said Sgt. Clint Holt of the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety.

The last water main break under the highway was a few years ago on the Saturday of the annual Coast Guard Festival Grand Parade. Holt said it looked similar to Thursday's at the start.

“Then it collapsed and caused a great big hole," Holt said.

Holt said public works officials were pouring over old maps from the 1950s and '60s to try to find the right valve that would stop the flow. By 12:30 p.m., the valve was located and turned, and a crew began to break open the road.

A hole about the size of a parking space was opened in the intersection and the city's vacuum truck was used to suck out the water.

In the meantime, northbound traffic was rerouted onto Comstock Street, then north on 172nd Avenue/Ferry Street to Taylor, and back to U.S. 31.

Holt said some businesses on the west side of U.S. 31 were without water, starting south of Russ’ Restaurant to Robbins Road.

What broke was a 12-inch cast-iron water main that was at least 30 years old, Grand Haven Public Works Director Bill Hunter said.

“We put a 'Band-Aid' on it — stainless steel," he said. "It will last forever."

With help from Grand Haven Township, the Ottawa County Road Commission and the Michigan Department of Transportation, Hunter said crews made quick work of getting the road back open.

The water main break was repaired and one lane of traffic was opened shortly after 2:30 p.m. The entire road was open shortly before 3:30 p.m.

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