US-31 to I-94 Completion Begins Next Year. MDOT Holds Open House May 23rd

Those of you who swore the day would never come...and those who still think it's a myth and "will never happen in my lifetime," are invited with everyone else to a Michigan Department of Transportation Open House soon regarding the completion of US-31 and its connection to I-94. It's starting to get real now, as construction begins next year.

The US-31 freeway project has been in development for more than 40 years. Some may recall the green bumper stickers of the 70's that would plead, "Please Pray For Me, I Drive US-31." The highly congested two lane highway had many accidents over the course of the years, and MDOT crafted a plan which became the St. Joseph Valley Parkway -- or as many affectionately called it -- The ByPass.

After 40 years of promises, broken plans, environmental issues and political wrangling, MDOT will be completing the US-31 limited-access freeway connection from Napier Avenue north to I-94 in Berrien County.

The objective has been to provide a 30-mile US-31 freeway connection from the I-80/90 toll road in Indiana to I-94 and US-31/I-196 in Michigan. Construction of the US-31 freeway as approved in a 1981 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) has been ongoing and was completed up to Napier Avenue in 2003.

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Since approval of the 1981 FEIS, the Blue Creek Fen (crossed by the original alignment north of Napier Avenue) has been identified as a unique resource. The fen provides habitat to many unique species, including the Mitchell’s satyr butterfly that was listed as a federally endangered species subsequent to the 1981 statement.

In 2002, a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) was prepared as an update to the 1981 statement for approximately 4 miles of the approved US-31 freeway alignment between Napier Avenue and I-94.

MDOT concluded that there was a potential for significant reductions in construction costs and environmental impacts if the final segment of the freeway was realigned to avoid the Blue Creek Fen. As a result, the 2002 statement compared the costs and impacts of alternatives that avoided the Blue Creek Fen to those of a no-build alternative and the alignment approved in the 1981 document.

Analysis of the alternatives led to the identification of a preferred alternative that provides a western connection of the US-31 freeway to I-94 south of the existing I-94/I-94 Business Loop interchange at Benton Harbor. The Record of Decision was signed on Aug. 31, 2004.

MDOT will conduct an open house to share plans for the US-31 connection to I-94, reconstruction of the I-94 interchange with US-31 and I-94 Business Loop, which is also East Main Street, and widening I-94 in Benton Township.

MDOT representatives are inviting business owners, residents and anyone interested in the project update to attend the Open House on Thursday, May 23, 2019 from 5 to 7pm at the Benton Township Hall located at 1725 Territorial Road in Benton Harbor.

Accommodations can be made for persons with disabilities and limited English-speaking ability. Large print materials, auxiliary aids or the services of interpreters, signers, or readers are available upon request. Please call 517-335-4381 to request such materials or accommodations at least seven days before meeting date.

Starting in 2020, MDOT will undertake a three-year, $111 million project to complete the connection of US-31 from Napier Avenue to I-94, the project which has been in development for more than 40 years.

Starting in 2020, MDOT will make improvements to I-94, US-31, and I-94 BL, including:

  • Reconstructing 3.1 miles of I-94, changing it from the current six-lane divided freeway to a barrier-separated eight-lane freeway...
  • Adding an auxiliary lane in each direction of I-94 from the new US-31 connection to I-196, along with a concrete median barrier...
  • Reconstructing all ramps at the I-196 interchange...
  • Reconstructing and realigning 1.6 miles of I-94 BL, right-sizing it from a four-lane divided highway to a three-lane arterial...
  • Removing the Euclid Avenue bridge over I-94 BL...
  • Constructing 2 miles of US-31 to make it a new four-lane divided freeway...
  • Removing the Highland Avenue and I-94 BL bridges over I-94...
  • Constructing cul-de-sacs on Highland Avenue at each side of I-94...
  • Constructing a new US-31/I-94/I-94 Business Loop interchange over I-94...
  • Reconstructing the Territorial Road bridge over I-94...
  • Rehabilitating the Benton Center Road bridge over I-94...
  • Building new bridges over US-31 at Empire Avenue, Britain Avenue, and Benton Center Road...

Construction will take place in stages to minimize the disruption to motorists and residents.

  • On I-94, two lanes will be open in each direction...
  • Highland Avenue will be closed over I-94...
  • Construction of I-196/US-31 interchange ramps will be staged to maintain access...
  • The Territorial Road bridge will be closed with traffic detoured during construction of the bridge...

More information is available on the project website: www.Michigan.gov/US-31Relocation.