The popular bumper sticker of the 70s and 80s in Michigan's Great Southwest was a simple message: "I Drive US-31, Pray For Me!" Tons of prayers went up that someday that road would be relocated and converted into a full expressway. Eventually, the majority of the roadway was completed taking the road from the state line all the way north to Napier Avenue. Now, after decades of prayers, there might be a light at the end of the road allowing for completion all the way to I-94 thanks to major new funding announced today by Congressman Fred Upton and the States two U.S. Senators.
All are reporting that the Michigan Department of Transportation has been awarded $20-million in discretionary grant funding to complete the U.S. 31 relocation project from Napier the rest of the way to I-94 in Berrien County.
Upton says, "We’re so excited to announce this project will be completed – finally,” and adds, “For years, we have been working diligently with local, state, and national leaders to get this done. The Department of Transportation has long-said ‘hang on, help is on the way’ and that day has now come. Completing this project will ensure Southwest Michigan remains a hub for economic competitiveness, jobs, and growth now and into the future.”
Elaine Chao, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, notes, “The Administration’s continued investment in infrastructure promises to stimulate economic investment, improve quality of life, and create safe, reliable transportation in our communities.”
The grant comes from the Department of Transportation (DOT) Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants program. This project will provide a free flow freeway traffic movement through the completion of the last two miles of the limited access US-31 freeway from Napier Avenue to I-94 in Berrien County. Upton has long supported completion of the project.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will award not only the US-31 grant, but another in the amount of $20.7 million to go towards repairs for the Carbide Dock Port, which is located on the same waterway as the Soo Locks and serves as a staging area for vessels needing emergency assistance.
Senator Peters says, “Michigan is a hub for international commerce and trade, and we need modern infrastructure to support our economy. I applaud today’s announcement that two key projects in Michigan will receive federal funding.” Peters is Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security. He says, “The Soo Locks are critical to the flow of goods through the Great Lakes, and this funding will provide much needed repairs to the Carbide Dock Port. Additionally, connecting US-31 to Interstate 94 has long been a priority in Southwest Michigan, and I’m pleased that this federal funding will make that route a reality.”
Stabenow says, “Reliable and modern infrastructure is critical to Michigan’s economy and job creation,” and adds, “Today’s federal investment will help connect two important freeways in Berrien County and make important upgrades near the Soo Locks.”
The Carbide Dock Port in Sault Ste. Marie is located on the same waterway as the Soo Locks and the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge. The funding announced today will rehabilitate the Carbide Dock Port and reconstruct connecting truck routes to the Dock.
The MDOT grant was awarded through DOT’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) transportation grant program, formerly known as the TIGER grant program. The BUILD program provides investments in key surface transportation projects around the country, which are awarded on a competitive basis for projects with significant regional impact.
There was no immediate indication as to how soon construction on the extension beyond Napier would get underway, although MDOT spokesman Nick Schirripa says the final phase funding makes MDOT confident that the project will be finished by the end of 2023. Stay tuned.