The city recently approved a $1.4 million contract with Muskegon-based Jackson Merkey Inc. for the first phase of the Grand Avenue reconstruction project.
The second phase of the project will be bid later this year by the Michigan Department of Transportation. That portion of the work is likely to begin next year.
City Project Manager Julie Beaton said construction crews could start as soon as April on the first phase, with the work expected to last through September.
“Construction will start at Harbor (Drive) and work its way up to the west side of the intersection of Doris (Avenue),” Beaton said of Phase 1.
The project is being paid with funds from the infrastructure millage approved by city voters in 2013. The work includes new water and sewer lines, improved drainage, new curb and gutter, and new road and pedestrian surfaces.
McGinnis said the infrastructure in place along Grand Avenue is original to when the road was last built, and has been repaired over time with patchwork fixes.
“We are taking care of it the right way, once and for all,” he said.
The project will have its challenges, city officials say.
“One aspect that makes it more challenging is the (terrain) out there,” Beaton said. “You have hills and valleys.”
Another challenge is giving people who live along Grand Avenue access to their homes during the construction work.
“It’s going to be very disruptive for everyone, so we’re looking for patience,” McGinnis said.
This means people who want to check out the view of Lake Michigan from Grand as it approaches Harbor will be out of luck this summer.
“It will be closed to through-traffic but open to local traffic,” Beaton said. “We’ll have one lane open at all times.”
To keep nonresidents out and residents in, the city is looking to use window stickers that residents can put on the front windshield of their vehicle that will let construction crews know it is OK to allow them into the work zone.
“The less we’re dealing with traffic that doesn’t belong there, the faster this work can go,” Beaton said.
Official detour plans haven’t been announced, but Beaton noted that traffic heading to the waterfront will likely be funneled toward downtown. Traffic will likely be sent down Sheldon Road, and then asked to take either Franklin or Washington avenues to Harbor Drive.
“We don’t want to send people (to a corner) without a traffic light,” Beaton said. “In the summer, when there is so much traffic headed to the beach, the chances of making a left turn are lengthy.”
Beaton said efforts may also be made to alert campers heading to the state park traveling north on U.S. 31 to turn onto Franklin and head to Harbor.
“The state park is really set up for the big trailers to come in from the north,” she said. “That’s something we’ll really want to emphasize.”
To inform residents of the project, a pre-construction public open house has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, at the Community Center, 421 Columbus Ave.
Beaton said property owners within the Grand Avenue corridor will receive an invitation and additional information for the open house, as well as information about mail delivery, garbage pickup service, project team contact options and detours. The items will be reviewed during the open house, along with the project schedule and what to expect during the first weeks of construction.