SOUTH HAVEN — One of the city’s main roadways will be going on a “diet” this week.
Workers are expected Wednesday to begin converting a portion of the Interstate-196 business loop from five to three lanes. Reduction of lanes along state trunklines is often referred to as a lane or road “diet.”
The project will take place on the business loop from Phoenix Street to Aylworth Avenue and include the local streets of Broadway Avenue and LaGrange streets.
Compton Inc. of South Haven pitched the low bid of $138,455 for the restriping project, which the company plans to complete later this fall. When finished, the roadway will consist of a three-lane configuration that includes two travel lanes, a turn lane and bike lanes on the outer section of the roadway.
Over the past few years, the city of South Haven has partnered with planning and engineering firm Abonmarche to undertake planning and solicit public input on the project before pursuing the implementation of the plan. The first phase is a planned trial phase to ensure the proposed road diet functions as anticipated and will simply entail restriping the road.
“No permanent changes will be made to the existing infrastructure until after the trial period is over and the functionality of the street can be evaluated and additional public comment solicited” said Bill Hunter, public works director. “We’ll do an assessment after we have had a full year of operation to determine how the changes are working.”
The Michigan Department of Transportation, which oversees interstate business loops throughout the state, first began experimenting with lane reductions on certain highways in the late 1980s as a way to improve the safety of motorists, while also acknowledging that the number of vehicles using the multiple-lane roadways has been reduced over the years.
Now commonplace in Michigan, more communities are turning to road diets as a strategy to better manage public works budgets while creating a safer space for all users of the roadway, whether they be motorists, pedestrians or bicyclists.