Frequently Asked Questions About the Welcome Center
- What will happen to the Michigan Welcome Center at the Water Street interchange of Interstate 69/94?
- Will the new welcome center be nicer than the existing one?
- Would visitors driving to Port Huron from Detroit or Flint be able to stop at the welcome center for local tourism information?
- Why not put the welcome center in the median to allow access from both sides of the expressway?
What will happen to the Michigan Welcome Center at the Water Street interchange of Interstate 69/94?
Answer: A new welcome center would be built on state-owned property off the expressway's westbound lanes in Port Huron Township. The existing welcome center would be demolished as part of the reconstruction of the Water Street interchange. Plans call for the replacement of the Water Street overpass, which was built in 1952 as part of the old Belt-Line Highway between Lapeer Avenue and Hancock Street.
Will the new welcome center be nicer than the existing one?
Answer: The Draft Environmental Impact Statement depicts the welcome center as a rest area with large parking lots for passenger and commercial vehicles. The new welcome center is expected to be a modern facility with a tourist office staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It also would offer 24-hour restroom and vending facilities. The rest area includes a pond to capture runoff from the parking lots. A fifteen-foot high berm would wrap around the rest area on three sides, helping to shield neighbors from noise.
Would visitors driving to Port Huron from Detroit or Flint be able to stop at the welcome center for local tourism information?
Answer: No access from eastbound I-69/I-94 will be provided.
Why not put the welcome center in the median to allow access from both sides of the expressway?
Answer: Placing the welcome center in the median was evaluated extensively, however it was ruled out for the following reasons:
- Limited Right-of-Way (ROW) : The proposed expanded welcome center would require approximately 45 acres to fully construct. Only 6 acres is available within the median to construct a welcome center. With the limited median ROW, adequate space can not be provided for the necessary welcome center buildings, parking and other facilities
- Safety: A welcome center constructed in the median would require two left hand merge ramps along both directions of I-94/I-69. Left hand merges are contrary to driver expectations, as slow moving traffic is mixed with faster moving traffic traveling on the interstate. FHWA approval would be required to add these ramps. Based on where the welcome center would need to be located within the median (on a sweeping curve), the mix of vehicles (trucks vs. cars), spacing of adjacent interchanges (see below) and speed along the corridor, approval of a break-in-access is not likely
- Conflicts with adjacent interchanges: The location of the proposed new welcome center is very close to both the I-94/I-69 interchange and the Lapeer Connector interchange. Placing left hand exit and entrance ramps in both directions along I-94/I-69 would create an undesirable traffic weave situation that is similar to the current Black River bridge weaving issue. In order to provide the proper interchange spacing that would adhere to current standards the proposed full access Lapeer Connector interchange would need to be eliminated. It is the Blue Water Bridge plaza DEIS study team's opinion that a full access Lapeer Connector interchange would provide greater benefit to the community than a welcome center in the median.
During the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) phase, MDOT has committed to working with local stakeholders on developing components that could be incorporated into the Preferred Alternative that would provide improved access to local tourism opportunities.