City battles MDOT

The fight is on to keep the landscaped median along U.S. 31 through a portion of Grand Haven.
Alex Doty
Sep 21, 2013


The Michigan Department of Transportation plans to invest in the highway in 2018, following the opening of the M-231 bypass.

“The plan, after they get that open, is to begin working in the City of Grand Haven,” City Manager Pat McGinnis said.

McGinnis said the work would be primarily focused on the areas between Washington Avenue and Jackson Street. In some spots, the landscaped median would essentially disappear, he noted.

The proposed project would add traffic lanes and take away portions of the landscaped median, especially between Fulton and Madison avenues.

“That (plan) would be a solid six lanes of concrete right through our city,” Mayor Geri McCaleb said.

In some spots, according to city officials, there would be a total of nine lanes of traffic spanning the two sides of the road.

“I think now is the time for the community to speak, if it is ever going to speak,” McGinnis said. “If you wait, you might be missing your opportunity. The funding decisions are being made.”

And speak they are. City leaders recently met with Ottawa County and state administrators and elected officials to discuss a strategy to improve traffic flow without negative impact.

“Gradually, we’re losing connecting paths to the neighborhoods on the other side,” McGinnis said. “We’ve never had changes that created more access across town.”

Instead, Grand Haven leaders want to see what kind of impact the M-231 roadway has on city traffic before any money is spent on widening Beacon Boulevard.

“To me, (widening Beacon) increases speed rather than causing it to decrease,” McCaleb said. “If it takes someone a little longer to get through the City of Grand Haven, that’s OK.”

Historically, U.S. 31 has already had a negative impact on the quality of life in Grand Haven, according to City Councilman Mike Fritz. It created a definite east and west side.

“When they first put this road through here, it did divide our town,” he said.

Councilman Denny Scott said he's heard concerns in the community about the proposed widening.

“I’ve not talked to one person who’s in favor of more lanes and a concrete median,” he said. “I think we need to do all we can to keep it.”



i thought the bypass would eliminate the constant congestion. what happened to that "study"?

Tri-cities realist

Improvements to US-31 beacon boulevard were always a part of the MDOT plan that included creating M-231 through Robinson twp.


i do think a turn lane would be advantageous for the major roads. i've lived in 12 different cities and this is the first one that separates the major roads.


Nice thought "“I think now is the time for the community to speak, if it is ever going to speak”... But where are individuals supposed to voice our concerns, so that they are taken into consideration prior to a decision being made?


Good point! So where are we suppose to voice our concerns?

Tri-cities realist

City council meetings, Ottawa county / road commission, write or call your state senator and rep... But I'm sure you could have figured this out on your own.


If you are a Robinson Township resident who has been negatively affected by the M-231 bypass, please write as well. The city of Grand Haven pushed, pushed, pushed for this bypass, which has devastated parts of Robinson, and now they want MDOT to drop the portion of this same project that makes minor changes to their city. After years of crying about crippling traffic, now they do an bout face and say that the traffic isn't bad at all. So when did they lie, then or now?


Wasting $500,000 putting an indirect Michigan Left Turn at US-31 and Warner, which resulted in one worker being killed in the construction, and now MDOT wanting to increase the chasm through Grand Haven that is Beacon Boulevard. MDOT like the Ottawa County Road Commission is beholden to no one!
What really needs to be figured out is why so many people turn left south bound on US-31 at Jackson. The left turn lane is given priority over all other traffic, which results in no means of timing the lights properly. On top of that, the exit to Spring Lake heading heading north, begins in Holland. I am exaggerating a bit, but many truckers and other vehicles that travel north through Grand Haven on a regular basis, get in the left lane well before entering the city, so they don't have a hard time merging left after Jackson.
That is the kind of stuff that needs to be resolved, not merely adding more "parking" space. Until these flow issues are fixed the vehicles will still crawl regardless of how many lanes there are!
Why is that such a difficult concept. Oh, yeah, get rid of that merge lane at 7th that people use and then try and turn right onto Jackson, too!


And don't forget about the proven phenomenon called 'induced demand', where the more lanes you add, the more the road becomes congested. Seems like it would ease congestion, but it makes it worse in reality. Many studies out there spanning decades prove it.


Why don't they add an artsy people bridge across Beacon? They have some really cool ones in Arizona that look like giant rattlesnakes. This could mend the East vs. West

Tri-cities realist

I would like to see the lights timed properly before ANY construction is even considered. A little re-programming could save millions. Maybe even involve one of the local high schools or colleges to help out as part of a class project. What a crazy concept.


MDOT would never go for that. They use the incorrect timing to their advantage when pushing these projects through.

Michael Johnson

Some good points made here...which makes me wonder what, exactly, the city council members are thinking, if indeed they are thinking at all. People bridges, improved and continuous bike lanes, extending the boardwalk all the way from downtown across into east town - these would all improve pedestrian traffic and safety throughout the city. The lights have been timed horribly for years - almost as if the city WANTS cars/trucks to stop as much as possible while traveling through town. Most ridiculous comment in the article: “If it takes someone a little longer to get through the City of Grand Haven, that’s OK.” Could you explain what you mean, Ms. Mayor? Because I don't really think crawling through traffic from Taylor through the Bridge really endears our town to anyone passing through. In fact, what it does is clog all of the neighborhood roads on the East side - where I live and where my child plays in the yard - with motorists trying desperately to find some faster way through the town. You say it is time for the people who live here to speak up - be careful what you wish for. I would gladly exchange the median between Washington and Jackson for improved traffic flow - and if you're worried about losing the landscaping there, perhaps you should try beautifying some of the vacant lots and ripping out the unused buildings on both the West AND East sides of 31. Better yet, do something constructive with that incredible waste of time and money - I am talking about the ridiculously over-priced condo complex, crappy burger restaurant, and completely unnecessary new coffee franchise - that greets visitors to our town on the drawbridge.


The lights on 31 are not timed by the city. They are under full control of MDOT.

MDOT has a history of using crappy light timings to make people think they need wider roads in order to push these projects through.

Widening the road will do nothing but cause more congestion through a phenomenon called 'induced demand'.

Actually re-timing the lights properly would solve the current day congestion.

Blaming the city for this is useless as they have no control and very little say in what MDOT does.


Its not the timing of the lights, its giving priority to the south bound left turn lane at Jackson. This stops the north bound lanes regardless of any other timing throughout town.
Drive through when there is no traffic, and you can cruise right through. As soon as there is traffic southbound trying to turn onto Jackson, you come to a screeching halt waiting for theat left turn light.
Why do so many people turn left at Jackson? It always amazes me coming from the north, the people entering from Spring Lake, have to go from the right hand lane to the left hand lane before they even cross the bridge grating.
Perhaps some of this traffic will be relieved when the new river crossing is complete.


I have major concern with this proposed project to widen US31/ Beacon in Grand Haven! I use a wheelchair and cross this road in question, in it's current state all the time "with No Problem"! Making these changes would make this crossing the road, in a wheelchair close to impossible! The city of Grand Haven is currently "very wheelchair user friendly". We don't want to go backwards!

Ryan Krygier


I've lived in a city that had the divided lanes just like Grand Haven and in every case they were removed, traffic flow improved, fewer accidents (not that this is an issue in the case of GH) stores saw more customers and area property values increased as a result but; I really like the look of the divided lanes with the green isles so I’m really on the fence, I think commerce would improve but it would take away charm and excuse my comparison make GH look like Holland and points south. We live next to the by-pass and MDOT planned to buy our house however the project was scaled back and the easement shrunk so our home was off the radar (for now). I too thought the by-pass was to enable traffic to “by-pass” Holland and Grand Haven with limited stops or lights all the way to 96, easing the traffic load through GH making opening up of 31 unneeded?


If the 31 bypass M-231) would have remained as it was originally supposed to be, traffic through GH would have been significantly reduced during rush hours. I live in Ferrysburg and definitely would have used it to make my commute faster. Now that it is only going to be a 2 lane from M-45 to 104 and I-96, I will bet GH will not see much of a reduction in traffic. Who will use it? Those working in Holland/Zeeland and live in Muskegon will have to go out of the way on "Backroad's" to get to the bypass which will take even more time. I know the decision makers in these plans should have their decision making rights removed from them. I have traveled this route for 15 years and yes, the traffic is annoying, but it's life. If I leave 15 minutes later from work, I get home 5 minutes later than I normally would without the traffic.


In my previous position I had to commute to Holland from Spring Lake. It was not that bad, and on the half dozen really busy Fridays, I shot up Beechtree from the fire barn and it was fine. THat this is a big issue seems to be blowing it out of proportion, and certainly not worth spending millions, destroying beauty of the city and crippling crosstown pedestrian traffic.
I agree that I scratch my head about the 231-bypass every time I think about it. I think that it will be a good place to go if you want to be alone. I have some nephews who play football for Allendale. Going to their games is the only time that I can imagine using it...maybe to get to Rivertown Crossings. Until the road is substantial all of the way to 196, I don't see it changing a thing in GH.


This is a joke! As Grand Haven and Neighboring areas grow, there is more traffic, period. Little things like "rush hour" happen. It really is not that big of a deal! When I lived in a big city it was the norm, and lasted much longer. MDOT wants to do something that will probably make more confusion versus cleaning up the "traffic problem" that barely exists.


MDOT is just a bunch suits taking advantage of a down economy and creating projects to keep their(our)employees employed. So lets say we remove the green space median in favor of adding other lanes. The result..traffic is now wider instead on longer, would still incur the same wait times with added vehicles and keep in mind we all still have to go over the same bottleneck bridge. Unless they widen the bridge by the same margin what difference does it make.

think about it

This continues to be one big scam after another and "bizzness" as usual. Ruin multi-hundreds of acres of habitat in Robinson and Crockery Townships, then start squawking about the precious median ???? This is and always has been about money and power and getting more of it. NEVER about traffic!


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