'Satisfying and spot on'

Alex Doty • Aug 11, 2016 at 8:00 AM

The Michigan Department of Transportation's M-231 project has earned a regional award in the 2016 America's Transportation Awards competition.

The competition is run by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Ottawa County’s newest highway was selected as the winner in the “Quality of Life/Community Development — Large” category. It is now in the running for bigger awards.

“The primary goals of constructing M-231 were to connect people and make the system safer and more efficient,” MDOT Grand Region spokesman John Richard said. “Winning the award in the ‘Quality of Life/Community Development’ category is satisfying and spot on.”

Richard said it’s always nice to hear positive feedback from motorists about their M-231 experiences, whether it’s saving time on their commute, using the pedestrian walkway or enjoying the view over the Grand River.

The America's Transportation Awards competition was created in 2008 with the support of AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to demonstrate that state departments of transportation are delivering value for our transportation dollars. This year, 40 states participated in the competition, nominating 84 projects in one of three categories: “Under Budget,” “Best Use of Innovation” and “Quality of Life/Community Development.”

As a regional winner, M-231 will now be considered for inclusion in the competition’s "Top Ten" projects, which will be announced in September. These projects will then compete for the Grand Prize and People’s Choice Award. The Grand Prize winner will be selected by a panel of transportation experts, while the People’s Choice Award will be chosen online by a public vote.

Both awards carry a $10,000 cash prize to support a transportation-related scholarship or charitable cause.

M-231 connects M-45 in Robinson Township with the M-104/I-96 interchange in Crockery Township. It opened last fall.

Ottawa County Administrator Al Vanderberg said there are numerous ways M-231 can have positive affects on the whole county.

“Transforming Ottawa County’s infrastructure to support development now and into the future is vital,” he said. “As the fastest growing county in the state, Ottawa County has increasingly become the choice of many as the destination to live, work and play. Completion of the first phase of the M-231 bypass has already created a quicker way for business and other non-tourist travel to traverse the county, and this will only become more enhanced as future additional phases of construction are completed.”

Vanderberg also noted that the new highway has resulted in improved public safety response times, since police, fire and EMS can provide service and support to jurisdictions on opposite sides of the Grand River. He added that there are recreational and cultural opportunities associated with the new link.

“The addition of the Henry E. Plant Non-Motorized Pathway that spans the Grand River alongside M-231 is another valued contribution to the recreation and cultural history of the county,” Vanderberg said. “While honoring Henry E. Plant, the first Congressional Medal of Honor awardee from Ottawa County, the pathway will link the Grand River Greenway on both sides of the Grand River and also link to the exciting new Spoonville Trail, now under development.”

Also recognized by AASHTO was the I-75 reconstruction project in Saginaw County, which is the winner in the “Under Budget — Medium” category.

"We've been proud of these projects since day one," State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle said. "M-231 provided a vital additional crossing over the Grand River in fast-growing Ottawa County, and the I-75 expansion fulfilled a statewide initiative to improve and expand the I-75 corridor.”

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