Communities look ahead to possible M-231 phase 2

Alex Doty • Jan 2, 2018 at 12:00 PM

While no firm plans are in place to begin the next phase of M-231 anytime soon, Ottawa County leaders hope to begin the preliminary work to identify potential routes for the highway’s second leg.

The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners recently signed a resolution supporting the need for the Michigan Department of Transportation to begin evaluating a proposed route for the second phase of M-231. The board also established an M-231 Corridor Preservation Committee.

“The resolution at the county level and local unit level was intended to show local support for continuing the investigation and assessment of M-231,” County Planning & Performance Improvement Director Paul Sachs said.

M-231 in its current state, from M-104/I-96 to M-45, opened to traffic in October 2015 after more than two decades of planning. The two-lane, limited-access highway was initially proposed to be an off-alignment freeway from I-196 near Zeeland to I-96/M-104. Coupled with improvements to U.S. 31 in Grand Haven and Holland, it would have cost more than $1 billion to construct.

The project was eventually scaled back to the current two-lane road between M-45 in Robinson Township and M-104/I-96 near Nunica, coupled with improvements to U.S. 31 north of Holland.

County officials say conversations have started in local communities and with MDOT to identify priority land segments that could be used for potential subsequent phases of the M-231 corridor, which would likely stretch between M-45 and I-196.

“That final phase 2 route has not been thoroughly defined,” Sachs said. “That creates a challenge when new development opportunities come up.”

The M-231 Corridor Preservation Committee will play a role in mitigating any conflict that may arise from new development being in the path of the future roadway. The committee will be comprised of at least one representative from each community impacted by the proposed route in order to review and implement land use planning techniques to preserve properties for possible use as road rights of way.

“A big part of the resolution, as well, is to state to MDOT that we would prefer that they begin their evaluation of phase 2 on the south end,” Sachs said, referencing a stretch that would likely run from 96th Avenue to I-196 in the Zeeland area.

“There is always traffic congestion in that area,” he added. “And we know there’s continued economic growth.”

County officials say that when the day comes that MDOT does commit money to the second phase of M-231, or if state transportation officials establish a timeline to evaluate and construct the proposed route, the county will be be in a solid position.

“We’re working proactively,” Sachs said. “We’re not sticking our head into the ground.”

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