GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The bridge carrying westbound I-196 over the Grand River, closed since April 1, will be open again by 3 p.m. Friday. Maybe earlier.
The Michigan Department of Transportation managed to replace the concrete deck and many giant steel beams supporting bridge spans in five months. The bridge was also widened, a process that began in 2017 before any interruption of traffic.
The bridge is now about 13,000 square feet bigger, with an entire new lane plus wider shoulders, which should increase safety, said MDOT Grand Region spokesperson John Richard. “There’s a lot more room … plus the new wider shoulders will make it safer in case of an emergency.”
“This project solved a lot of problems,” said MDOT project engineer Tanya Pawlukeivicz, the overall supervisor of the project. First is the congestion common in approaching downtown Grand Rapids. Then there was the elimination of a lane at Ottawa Avenue; now drivers won’t have to merge into a busy lane approaching the bridge.
While the closure lasted five months, the project took three years, with a year-long delay caused by an endangered species. Additional support piers had to be built, so parts of the Grand River had to be disturbed. That presented a complication: one of the river’s residents is an endangered species of mussel. MDOT had to actually move the mussels so a causeway could be built. That causeway will be removed by October 1, said Pawlukiewicz.
All the ramps will be open when the bridge opens, with the exception of the entrance ramp from Ionia Avenue. The City of Grand Rapids reconfigured Ionia Avenue: northbound traffic eventually will be required to either use the entrance ramp to eastbound I-196, use the entrance ramp to westbound I-196, or to turn and enter Division Avenue. Traffic on Division Avenue will be able to directly enter westbound I-196.
The handle the new traffic pattern, the city plans to install a traffic signal on Division Avenue just north of the I-196 bridges before opening the ramp.