Grand Rapids green-lights new downtown freeway on-ramp

Construction will start in April for a new on-ramp to westbound Ford (I-196) from Division Ave. It will connect to the existing on-ramp from Ionia Ave., and should reduce some of the congestion on Michigan St. and Ionia.

The current Ionia on-ramp is scheduled to be closed from April to August, at the same time that the westbound freeway will be closed for the last part of bridge widening that started in 2017.

Grand Rapids city commission on Tuesday approved the project, which has been in the works for several years. MDOT originally planned to build the new ramp during last year’s construction season, but pushed it back so it would happen at the same time the westbound freeway is closed to widen the bridge over the Grand River.

Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) installed new pylons in the Grand River and on the banks over the past two years, so they can add a lane and shoulders to the bridge. Westbound Ford crams into three lanes at its narrowest point over the river. When it re-opens in the fall, there will be two through-lanes, ramp lanes on both sides, and wide shoulders for breakdowns.

The existing on-ramp from Ionia will be slightly re-aligned. Northbound through-lanes of Ionia will be permanently diverted onto Division Ave. Access to businesses on Ionia north of the freeway will be from Newberry St. and Fairbanks St., cross-streets to the north of Michigan St.

The new on-ramp will cost $1.87-million, mostly funded by the federal government, with some from Michigan and the City of Grand Rapids. The bridge-widening project will come in at around $25-milion.

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