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.”