Blvd. plans anger city officials

The Michigan Department of Transportation is working out details on the next phase of the northern Ottawa County U.S. 31 bypass project, and it is drawing concern among local officials.
Alex Doty
Aug 1, 2013


After the more-publicized M-231 highway project connecting Crockery and Robinson townships is done, the state agency wants to widen U.S. 31 through a portion of Grand Haven, which has traffic jams for short "rush hours" each day.

“I’d hate to see them decimate our boulevard to accommodate 1-2 hours of traffic per week,” City Manager Pat McGinnis said.

Based on preliminary plans proposed by state transit officials, each side of Beacon Boulevard between Jackson Street and Washington Avenue would gain an additional travel lane.

The boulevard's median would be reduced in width to accommodate the third lane each way. In its place would likely be a smaller median, or a concrete divider or median.

McGinnis noted that the “stable, mature trees" in the project's path would likely be removed if the plan proceeds.

City officials are hopeful that the state will take another look at the need for expanding the highway in Grand Haven before tearing up the road.

“Don’t make this a done deal until after the bypass project,” McGinnis said. “We don’t want to change a community profile based on a couple of hours per week.”

To make their message clear, city officials have sent resolutions to the state that the city generally supports a U.S. 31 construction project with the understanding that the transportation agency does not plan to construct improvements limiting car and pedestrian access to and across the highway. This includes the addition of new lanes and resulting in near elimination of the boulevard between Washington Avenue and Jackson Street.

Instead, the city would like to wait until all improvements on the 120th Avenue corridor are operational — including a new bridge over the Grand River and a connecting bypass from M-45 to 1-96 — and the need for additional access restrictions in Grand Haven is demonstrated.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.



How about fixing the timing and length of the lights during peak times! A lot of the traffic at those heavy times is going thru town.




Widen it from Jackson to Washington ????? This is going to do what? Nothing! Jackson to Robbins would make a difference...Maybe.

Who's the brilliant moron behind this idea?


Exactly. In fact, many studies have shown that adding lanes to a road to ease congestion and add capacity actually INCREASE congestion.

The secret to easing congestion on Beacon is to simply time the signals properly, or install the 'smart' signals that are networked and adjust their timing automatically based on current traffic patterns to ensure there are no back-ups.

On top of this, isn't the whole 231 project advertised as a solution to the congestion on 31? So why widen the road if the congestion will already be eased by 231?

One of the main reasons I moved here seven years ago was because of the tree-lined streets. MDOT's plan will result in all the trees being ripped out and a concrete divider being installed. Talk about making Grand Haven ugly...

"If you're simply widening congested roadways with the idea you'll get rid of congestion, that's naive" said Lewis M. Fulton; an expert in researching traffic flow patterns.

His study used 26 years of data from every county in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. In the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area, the analysis concluded that about one-third of the added road capacity on main highways--whether new lanes or entirely new roads--was used up by induced travel; every 10 percent expansion in roads led directly to a 3.3 percent rise in the number of vehicles driving on them.

The statewide results from Maryland and Virginia were even more dramatic, showing that about half of added road capacity was filled up because of induced travel. A 10 percent expansion in roads led to a 4.5 percent increase in motorists in Maryland and a 5.1 percent increase in Virginia.

The second study, conducted by Robert B. Noland, a former transportation analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency, reviewed 15 years of data from major American metropolitan areas. He found a somewhat smaller--but still highly significant--induced effect. The research showed that a 10 percent expansion in roads produced a 2.8 percent rise in travel.

Some of the effects identified in both studies were immediate, and the full traffic increase occurred in two to four years.

Here is some light reading on the subject:

There is not much online about this phenomena, but if you talk to any traffic engineer about the subject, they will readily admit it is very true (I know many). So why do they keep doing these widening projects then? It all comes down to federal grant money.


You hit the nail right on the head, and if MDOT has there way, and they will of course. There will be an extra lane and a divider down the middle of the highway, but there is only one thing.
Only one thing that stands in MDOT great plans of expansion, it is the bridge and the money necessary to update the bridge. God Help Us.


Obviously there are people who have never had to endure real traffic and think this is an issue.

Just because some idiot put up their hand doesn't mean they need to be called on. And, if we do call on them, in error obviously, we don't have to let them be correct when they aren't.

There is not a traffic problem in Grand Haven that requires tearing up our city and spending those kinds of dollars; find something else to do...


I agree with everything up to telling them to find something else to do. You end up with something like "Same number of lanes, but lets heat them in the winter!"


make semi trucks use the by pass and dont allow them on beacon as originally discussed.


One semi for every how many cars? Ya ok.......


Wow we all agree on something or so I thought. Just like Wing & Signal said change the light timing and be done with it.....Low cost, no wasted money on studies and all the other crap.

No Brainer MDOT

great lakes chick

Yeah, that would mean there's a brain in MDOT. Signal changes will make driving much easier as will the bypass. It is a struggle to get through GH via 31, have to plan ahead at times. But I feel that signal changes will help significantly. The way they're timed currently is a joke; stop, go, stop, go. Something needs to be done regardless. Tearing out some of the more beautiful areas that make Grand Haven unique sure seems like a waste for a few hours of traffic daily. Let's remember that GH is flooded with tourists every summer and a huge draw is the beauty of the entire area. Seeing concrete barriers along 31 does not equal a beautiful area in my opinion.


Let's get rid of the the one way streets and make Franklin and Columbus two way!


I agree with CitizenDave.
Let's see if 123 helps the situation, too.
Also, I would hate for the median to turn into a slab of concrete!
Keep the small town look of Grand Haven. After all, wouldn't want
to get too big for our britches!


If there is one thing, we should all understand, it is that MDOT is the local state God and that local municipalities have very little say in the way our local streets are handled.
It is way past time that this barrier be changed so that local governments can have a more constructive say on what and how there local roads are structured.
As for the new bypass, many promises were made by MDOT but only time will tell if any of these promises will come true. Along with Grand Haven, the Village of Spring Lake is being negatively affected by the increase traffic on 104.
With MDOT estimating that a ten-percent reduction in traffic on 104 will be realized once the bypass is a reality, since today an estimated (twenty-five thousand) cars daily are now using 104. You can do the math, guess we will see, but please do not hold your breath. Remember MDOT does what it wants, and when it wants, regardless.


It is ridiculous to want to expand 31 when the bypass has not even been finished! Ripping out trees and widening roads for a few blocks just push the jam to Washington when people have to merge because of an ending lane. Who are these MDOT people anyways, that think this "rush hour" traffic is bad? This is nothing!


they need to stop adding and start removing stop lights. Every time they put in a fast food joint, gas station, Meijers, Walmart, etc they add another stop light. They need to start closing off a majoity of the side streets, taking down stop lights and sychronizing the few that are left. At one point in time the city had a bunch of ideas for improvements to help eliminate the bypass. These were quickly forgotten when they pushed ahead with the bypass anyways. They should've implemented them back then and been proactive. If the city doesn't want the lanes made wider, they need to get off their butts and address the situation. Not sit around doing nothing and then when MDot decides to fix it, they belly ache about it. From the drawbridge to the southside of Holland there are over TWO DOZEN stoplights. From the drawbridge to Ludington there are ZERO until the expressway basically ends and eventually turns into a two lane road.


All this ruckus from Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis over a few trees and some grass? I am going to make a simple change to some of the statements and put the M-231bypass project into perspective.

“I’d hate to see them decimate our boulevard to accommodate 1-2 hours of traffic per week,”
“I’d hate to see them decimate ROBINSON TOWNSHIP to accommodate 1-2 hours of traffic per week,”

“stable, mature trees" in the project's path would likely be removed if the plan proceeds.
“stable, mature HOMES" in the project's path HAVE BEEN removed”

City officials are hopeful that the state will take another look at the need for expanding the highway in Grand Haven before tearing up the road.
City officials are hopeful that the state will take another look at the need for expanding the highway in Grand Haven before tearing up ROBINSON TOWNSHIP.

“We don’t want to change a community profile based on a couple of hours per week.”
“We don’t want to change a TOWNSHIP profile based on a couple of hours per week.”

This includes the addition of new lanes and resulting in near elimination of the boulevard between Washington Avenue and Jackson Street.
This includes the addition of new HIGHWAYS and resulting in near elimination of the QUIET LIFESTYLE IN ROBINSON TOWNSHIP.

The city of Grand Haven pushed so hard for this bypass which is forever ruining large parts of Robinson Township and they now have the audacity to complain about a few trees?


Well put... Don't think for one minute that Ottawa County was not involved in this decision. This is why the new county buildings at 120th/ Fillmore were built in this area. It was the master plan from the start. Mr McGinnis don't have a stroke ...just think you will save so much money from not needing to cut and watering the median grass.. The median looks like garbage. Years ago the medians were cut, edged and flowers planted...

Tri-cities realist

Maybe they could install astro-turf in the median...

Tri-cities realist

Well said cubbie. That is one of the reasons we moved away from Robinson twp.

great lakes chick

Bravo! I've met many, and some are dear friends, have lost so much to this bypass. Looks like a war zone out on 120th. Sad to see barns burned down and houses removed overnight.

Tri-cities realist

Alex doty, here's an idea, how about asking MDOT officials some of the well reasoned questions posed by your readers on this forum?

My top 3 would be (although perhaps in a little less snarky tone):

Why not wait to validate MDOT's projected numbers on how much traffic would use 231, via actual DATA, prior to expanding 31 through GH? I mean if their prior predictions were wrong, why should we believe what they say now?

Why can't the lights on 31 in GH be timed better? Or, here is a test I would love to see tried for just one day, and it would cost next to nothing. Leave all of the 31 lights set to their late night setting for one full day, that is, blinking yellow on all north/south, and blinking red on all east/west cross streets. My guess is that congestion on the thru lanes would be so alleviated that it wouldn't take very long for traffic on the side streets to enter (or cross) the north / south bound lanes. It might take a bit longer at Jackson and Robbins, but there is always the "Michigan left" option at Robbins in both directions, and heading north from east bound Jackson. That leaves heading south from west bound Jackson, going past Grand Isle is a bit farther, but could be done.

Ask MDOT about the studies SignalMaintainer posed. And if they refuse to answer any questions, call them out on it.

Sorry, had to add the obvious 4th question: how would adding additional lanes between Jackson and Washington NOT just create another bottleneck at Washington?


Wrong! You have just created what you want to eliminate, near catastrophic congestion. You have removed what existing traffic control that was put in place to level the playing field and at the worst possible times of the day, not for just you but for everyone. It’s called traffic density. When the roadways are saturated with vehicles, your driving options are no longer your own. Try to adapt, hell, that’s what everyone around you is doing. Ever wonder why traveling in very heavy traffic on an Interstate all of a sudden its 20 to 40 MPH? No yellow blinking out there.

Get your kids Match Box cars out and set up a US31/GH scenario that takes you thru town, either direction, doesn’t matter. If this sounds like I am joking, I’m not. Try it. It’s a mental exercise that defines the situation and provokes discussion.

Before you get too upset with MDOT, try remembering their first and upmost is your and my safety on our state’s roadways. That's why Signal has his lights working when a train is coming.

And finally, be thankful your commute is to downtown Holland and not to anywhere in Atlanta. I hope I share this opinion, “We do not have a traffic problem here!”

Almost forgot, Alex, whomever you talked to that thinks our boulevard should be traffic lanes, tell him/them to stay away from GH. There are a lot of angry people here that do not share his/their thinking.


Has anyone considered the logistics in the extra mileage that commuters are going to have to go if they elect to take the M231? If you are traveling from Muskegon to Holland and take the M231 Bypass it could potentially add an extra 20 minutes to your commute. The bypass is only 2 lanes and will have multiple stops, therefore making it ineffective. Once a commuter takes the bypass a few times, they will realize the extra 5-10 minutes to stay on Beacon Blvd will be worth the savings of time and additional fuel. To limit semis to only take the M231 would be ridiculous as they make deliveries to Home Depot, Meijer, Wal-Mart and most every other retail account. I agree to time the signals as well as eliminate some of the traffic lights on Beacon that slow up the traffic.

Say no to new taxes

As many citizens have stated here, improved stop light timing would make a huge difference. Why doesn't MDOT get that?


Because a gubment entity does not need to be creative and use common sense to solve issues. They just need to figure out how to design an elaborate plan to spend secure/money from what they see as a bottomless pit of taxpayer dollars.


I wonder how the construction costs for this project factor into the $1.2 billion in additional road budget funding that Gov Snyder is calling for, and the need to increase taxes to obtain the revenue?

Tri-cities realist

Lanny, I have no idea, but just wanted to state for the record that I am NOT a big Snyder fan on a lot of issues, but I'm sure that doesn't surprise you. Is Snyder your type of Republican? I think you would agree that he is pretty moderate, certainly not a tea party type, correct?


Good call out TCR. Lanny, to his point? Snyder certainly is more "centrist" then say John Engler.


TCR and Wing - I thought you'd never ask! Yes - I support the Guv' - he's my type of guy; moderate, pragmatic, successful businessman, reasonable, balanced, looks out for all the people of Michigan, but with a fiscally conservative approach. It's the current legislature, heavily-laden with unreasonable, unbalanced, hypocritical Tea Party types that emotionally glob onto the social wedge issues instead of jobs and the economy that I object to.

Snyder is certainly not perfect, who is?, but I appreciate the forces under which he must govern and to keep happy those who helped elect him, and the kinds of compromises he must make to turn Michigan around. For example, I am opposed to the idea of an emergency manager on principle, but if even Mayor Dave Bing, another man who I admire for being an outstanding and exemplary citizen, businessman, athlete, and recipient of many honors, can't turn Detroit around, then I suppose Snyder's move to the emergency manager scenario becomes necessary, although certainly not ideal.

I think you would find, if you have any interest in studying American political history, is that there is a common thread between Teddy Roosevelt, Reagan, George H W Bush, George W Bush, Eisenhower, Engler (and all Michigan republican governors for that matter), (and I'll throw Obama in here as well) and that is that they all governed far more to the left of current extreme Republican thought today. Based on their history of governance, none of them would be nominated, by today's standards, as a Republican candidate.



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