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US-31 Holland to Grand Haven Corridor Study

US-31 is a principal arterial on the National Highway System serving north/south traffic along the Lake Michigan shoreline. US-31 from South Bend, Indiana, to the Mackinac Bridge is roughly 460 km (390 miles) and provides access to more than 15 state parks, along with hundreds of tourist-oriented businesses and other recreational opportunities. US-31 is the primary commercial, commuter, and tourist route for both long distance travelers and local Holland to Muskegon trips. US-31 has been identified as part of Michigan's "Priority Commercial Network" and is considered a critical link in the local economy and county-wide development plans.

The section of US-31 under study extends from I-196 in Allegan County (City of Holland) to I-96 in Muskegon County (City of Norton Shores) and is approximately 48 km (30 miles) in length. US-31 serves the communities of Holland, Zeeland, West Olive, Grand Haven, Ferrysburg, Spring Lake, Norton Shores, and Fruitport within the study area. The 1997 Average Daily Traffic (ADT) on US-31 varies from 11,500 to 50,000 in the Holland area, from 21,000 to 24,000 in the rural area between Holland and Grand Haven, from 28,000 to 58,500 in the Grand Haven area, and from 33,000 to 37,000 north of M-104.

The most recent available crash data for US-31 shows that the accident rates in various urban segments of US-31 (i.e., Holland and Grand Haven) were more than double the average rates for comparable facilities in the Grand Region (eight county area of West Michigan) and in the entire state. Forty-six (46) percent of all accidents occurred within the city limits of Grand Haven, and sixteen (16) percent of all accidents occurred in Holland. Congestion and high commercial traffic (12 percent of daily volume) are two factors contributing to the higher-than-average accident rates on US-31. In its effort to determine which alternative represents the best balance of congestion relief, improved safety, and minimization of impacts, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is evaluating the existing and future conditions associated with US-31 and the communities along its route from I-196 to I-96.

The existing and forecasted conditions for the US-31 study area indicate that without increasing the capacity or decreasing travel demand in urban areas and across the Grand River, mobility within Ottawa County will be negatively affected. The purpose of and need for the US-31 Study area is to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety for the traveling public. The purpose of this study is to identify and develop alternatives that will satisfy these needs.

US-31 provides the only structure over the Grand River between Lake Michigan and the 68th Avenue bridge in Eastmanville, a distance of approximately 32 km (20 miles). Recurring instances of mechanical and electrical failures have caused the existing bridge to close improperly, sometimes for hours. These failures cause a high degree of vehicular congestion within the entire urban area of Grand Haven, Ferrysburg and Spring Lake. The current incident management plan detours traffic east to 68th Avenue, a 64-kilometer (40-mile) trip for travelers on US-31. This lengthy detour is inconvenient to commuters and businesses along the US-31 corridor. Those industries in the study area which depend on "Just-In-Time" delivery are affected by bridge malfunctions.

The expected traffic growth on US-31 will degrade the current traffic problems further. Daily traffic volumes are projected to reach 83,000 vehicles at the Grand River bridge in Grand Haven by the year 2020. The existing 6-lane bascule bridge cannot accommodate this volume without continuous periods of congestion. The increased congestion will further affect accident potential and air quality.

In 1990, MDOT prepared a preliminary assessment of conditions within the study area. This report recommended further study of several alternatives for the existing US-31 alignment, and identified the possibility of an alternate by-pass alignment to relieve traffic congestion on existing US-31. The current US-31 Location Design Study was initiated in 1993. In 1994, the environmental portion of the project required for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was initiated.

In 1994, the project study area south of New Holland Street in Ottawa County was designated as a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). This new MPO, administered by the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council (MACC), incorporates the following jurisdictions: City of Holland, City of Zeeland, and the Townships of Holland, Park, Laketown, Zeeland, and Fillmore. In late 1994, MDOT initiated a Major Investment Study (MIS). The MIS process was mandated under ISTEA as a tool for making better decisions within metropolitan areas. An MIS is required when a high-type highway improvement (such as a freeway) of substantial cost is expected to have a significant effect on capacity, traffic, or the level of service for a metropolitan area. During 1995, the MDOT and the MPO developed appropriate land use, traffic projections, and alternatives for consideration as part of the combined MIS/DEIS process. As a result of these previous actions, as well as through continuous public and agency input, this Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) has been prepared to evaluate the implementation of improvements to the US-31 corridor within the study area.

Succinctly stated, the purpose of and need for this project is to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety for the traveling public on and in the vicinity of US-31.