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January 21, 2013

US-131 Constantine bypass construction to start in February

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Written by: Bruce Snook
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The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is scheduled to begin construction of the US-131 Constantine bypass on Monday, Feb. 4. The two-lane bypass includes a new 870-foot bridge over the Saint Joseph River. Contractors DJ McQuestion & Sons and Rieth-Riley, will lead the $18 million project.

“We are honoring our commitment to improving the efficiency of the US-131 corridor,” said Greg Johnson, MDOT chief operations officer. “This bypass will greatly aid commercial transport and the economy of the entire region.”

The bypass around the village of Constantine will span nearly 5 miles from Garber Road to Dickinson Road.

(Click on map to enlarge)

“There has been talk of this bypass in the village for at least 50 years, and I’ve been working on it myself for 14 years. I’m just so thrilled to have it becoming a reality,” said Constantine Village President Pat Weiss. “We haven’t been able to get a stop light in the downtown, and now people will be able to cross the street without all the truck traffic. This definitely was a safety issue for our community.

“Our DDA has worked very hard on downtown improvements, and there have been a lot of changes in the downtown area to help our merchants in any way we can. We knew this was coming, and we’re hoping for good things for our downtown business owners.”

“I’m glad to see it getting started,” said Constantine Township Supervisor James Paananen.

In addition to the new roadway, the bypass construction will create new intersections with Stears Road, Riverside Drive, North River Road, Millers Mill Road, Youngs Prairie Road, and Zerbe Road. The project also will turn the following existing through-roads into cul-de-sacs: Stears Road, west of the bypass; and Birch Street and Millers Mill Road, east of the bypass.

Commercial traffic delivering goods and services throughout the Midwest now will have an easier and more reliable route to travel through southwest Michigan.

“To be an attractive region for companies and residents alike, our region needs infrastructure that easily allows people and products to get from place to place fast and cost-effectively,” said Ron Kitchens, chief executive officer (CEO) of Southwest Michigan First. “These improvements to the logistics system in Constantine will enhance our region’s ability to compete by connecting the area to broader markets.”

“The Chamber has long advocated for improving US-131 to the Indiana border,” said Rick Baker, president/CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. “This project is an essential component to economic growth and development and is a key part in improving the only major north-south corridor in west Michigan. As planned improvements to US-131 like this become a reality, local businesses will be able to get products from their suppliers faster and trucking companies can spend less time on the road. When businesses are looking to expand or locate to our area, a variety of different components factor into their decision: taxes, environment, skilled workers, and the ability to get their products to market. As the area’s leading business advocate, we are glad to see that things are moving forward.”

For additional information about the bypass project – including a map showing the route – click on the following link:  US-131 Constantine Bypass in St. Joseph County.

MDOT to host US-131 Constantine bypass open house on Monday, January 28

WHAT: An open house to discuss construction of the US-131 bypass around the village of Constantine.


  • Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) representatives
  • Residents
  • Business owners
  • Media

WHEN: 5 – 7 p.m. – Monday, January 28, 2013

WHERE: Constantine High School, 1 Falcon Drive, Constantine

Special accommodations: 269-435-8900

BACKGROUND:  MDOT is set to begin construction of the new US-131 bypass around the village of Constantine in St. Joseph County in the first week of February. The open house will offer the chance to learn more and ask questions about the project.

Source:  News releases from Michigan Department of Transportation


  1. And all the kings horses and all the kings men.....

    From the article…..”We are honoring our commitment to improving the efficiency of the US-131 corridor,” said Greg Johnson, MDOT chief operations officer. “This bypass will greatly aid commercial transport and the economy of the entire region.”

    Gimme a break MDOT……there’s plenty of documentation that MDOT wanted to drop this project from the 5 year plan more than a few times from lack of traffic thru their own studies, and I personally sat in on a meeting a Brewster’s not so long ago where the MDOT rep told a crowd of VERY influential people that it was back burnering this project only to have our local Senator walk in 5 minutes later and say, No…here’s what we are gonna do to put that back on MDOT’s priority list….and that’s exactly what happened. Check out the April 20th 2006 South Bend tribune article that I listed in a related post that said what “their friends” in Lansing did for “us”.

    Folks will tell you this is gonna help us compete in a global market. I have been to these countries we compete against and let me tell you. The roads and traffic conditions are so hideous that our employers insist that we don’t drive ourselves and have designated drivers when we go there. In India, my global supply chain counterpart has told me where he literally sees parts coming in and going out from some suppliers in and out of the plant on animal pulled wagons or on the backs of pack animals. And these are the countries where we sending our jobs to–not because they have wonderful road conditions to improve traffic patterns but because we pay them pennies compared to wages here, they don’t have to pay employee bennies like in the US and there is little environmental regulation. So the irony here is we fund infrastructure projects thru federal dollars via loans from China to build stuff like this–meanwhile the flow of jobs to that country continues, and we continue to borrow from them.

    How’s our budget for taking care of our roads and bridges? I was just last week the RCJ announced Gov Snyder’s plan that we will pay more in our registration fees and wholesale gas tax because we don’t have the funds to take care of the roads we have. RCJ articles last year quoted MDOT’s figures which, when you calculate it out, shows that would take 11 years to fix the bridges and overpasses currently in disrepair and that assumes that no other bridges/overpasses got added to the list. But we have $27 million to build a 2 lane road around our little burg to dump in to the next town that has its bypass riddled with stoplights…..yeh, I guess that makes perfect sense.

    If I am a township representative, think of the revenue that will come when they build a few big box stores, gas stations, restaurant chains off the highway (look at TR bypass–it sure is working over there and they are about out of room–so where will the next big box store go? Hmmmm….lots of flat farmland off new highway going around Constantine sounds kinda nice.

    Yes folks from GR and Kalamazoo will endorse this – here’s their comment— “local businesses will be able to get products from their suppliers faster and trucking companies can spend less time on the road.” On paper –I agree with this–it will allow them to get their components from China and abroad much faster. However, look at the bypass around TR now and that is a 4 lane–how’s that developed for us for improving the flow of commercial trucks? I see lots and lots of stoplights from all the big box stores (and where are alot of their goods coming from?–check the labels).

    More quotes – “I’m just so thrilled to have it becoming a reality,” said Constantine Village President Pat Weiss. “We haven’t been able to get a stop light in the downtown, and now people will be able to cross the street without all the truck traffic. This definitely was a safety issue for our community.” Wow…spoken like a Mayor with her house right on the highway … getting rid of traffic in front of her house surely won’t erode her property value now will it. And a downtown light to cross the street….cross the street to do what, and go where? What’s the draw to our downtown with her 14 years working on the bypass?. Is two lights in our tiny town not enough? And this will improve safety? Really? Ask yourself this…look at the new bypass intersection on Riverside drive next to our high school and middle school. Imagine now a home football game getting done and folks heading out on Riverside drive that have to cross the highway.. Imagine kids and buses (full of children) in the morning using that intersection in the mornings and afternoons coming to and from school–again crossing the new highway. When they cross that highway (with no light) those commercial trucks aren’t going 25-35 mph…they will be traveling full highway speed. And you wanna sell this to me as a safety issue?….that’s political rhetoric at its finest.

    Just get the fricken bypass done because you folks are gonna do what your gonna do–just PLEASE quit trying to pat me on the head and tell me it’s for folks like me. I’ve heard that “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” sales pitch on this for waaaaay toooooo long. I’d write more, but I gotta make travel arrangements for my trip to our plant in China for a new product launch next month….

  2. Boy....ya sher do gotta purdy bridge

    Check out this RCJ reference from MDOT on the state of our bridges and the take rate at which they can keep up with them……you do the math of where we are with the state of the bridges we have, but we are gonna build another.


    Here’s a little fun fact that we all better wrap our minds around. OK, so that bridge we have going thru downtown now. OK, granted that MDOT says they will still own and maintain that bridge for us. But I gotta ask, when the new road and bridge gets built and the majority of traffic goes around town and our friends to the North are getting all their goods in and out of their manufacturing plants on time, and there’s no one that’ll really care about the downtown bridge but us locals that still use it, just where do you think our downtown bridge will fall on the priority list when it needs repaired, given the quoted amount of bridges in the state already in disrepair. So do you think we will have all this outside support to influence Lansing to help us out with that…………..?

    …and here’s part of last week’s RCJ article reporting on part of Governor Snyder’s state of the state address on how we pay for all the roads we have today in disrepair and what it all means to each and every one of us and our wallets…….

    “…..- Investing in Michigan’s deteriorating roads to ensure long-term savings for the state, save lives and deliver quality, cost-effective results for taxpayers. Simply maintaining the current condition of our roads – which most motorists agree is not good – demands significant investment. Snyder pointed out that every dollar invested today saves money in the future, which is critical given Michigan’s decades-long road maintenance, repair and construction challenges.

    Michigan is currently short about $1.2 billion a year to fix our roads, and new investments haven’t been made in them since 1997. We can pay today or continue to delay, but that will cost us twice as much. We’ll need $12 billion over 10 years – and that’s just in today’s dollars. Continuing to delay lets the costs balloon to $25 billion in 10 years and saddles the next generation with that bill.

    The governor is proposing a simple and fair “user fee” based on three revenue sources: 1) a shift from the gas tax to a tax at the wholesale level; 2) an increase in vehicle registration fees for light cars and for trucks; and 3) an optional local or regional registration fee that will be permitted.

    The total will be about $120 per car on average, but since it’s a basic user fee, it will fluctuate based on the amount of use and the vehicle’s value. Snyder will work with lawmakers to determine the proper balance between the funding sources to ensure that adequate revenue is generated……”

    OK, so on top of where we are with bridges I take it from this report last week that we are over a billion dollars in the hole to take care of our roads too (and the governor is telling us you and me are gonna help pay for all that), yet we are gonna spend tens of millions of dollars to build a new road and bridge so traffic can get from the toll road to the gridlock of stoplights on the bypass around TR just to the North.

    Yep….I guess it all just makes perfect sense what we are doing……

  3. And all the kings horses and all the kings men........

    From the article above……..“We are honoring our commitment to improving the efficiency of the US-131 corridor,” said Greg Johnson, MDOT chief operations officer. “This bypass will greatly aid commercial transport and the economy of the entire region”…..

    Honoring a commitment? Really? Maybe I’m a little confused with that quote when comparing that to an April 20, 2006 South Bend tribune article. …..here’s a part of that article

    “….Six months after MDOT decided traffic on the highway segment didn’t justify expansion of the highway to four lanes, it was announced Thursday in Lansing an agreement has been reached with Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s office to restore a significant portion of the funding for improvements to 131…..”

    Seems pretty consistent with more than a couple occasions where MDOT wanted to back burner this project altogether because the traffic studies (MDOT’s traffic studies) said that we really didn’t need a bypass. I was there at Brewster’s not so long ago for when MDOT said just that. They said they were taking this bypass off the 5 year plan to all the power brokers that wanted this sucker built..and 5 minutes later then in walks our state senator to meet with the group and he heard that message from MDOT and said that’s not the way its going to go if he has any say in it, and he said what he would do to try to change that direction to make sure it stays in the 5 year plan so this gets done. So traffic studies said we don’t need to expand our highway? Well gosh, that’s not a problem for politics in this state…I mean we never let the facts get in the way of the agenda before. So how did our folks in Lansing deal with those MDOT studies….let’s read further from that article from April 20th….

    “……..Details of the agreement weren’t immediately released but a joint statement issued by state Sen. Cameron Brown, R-Sturgis, and state Rep. Rick Shaffer, R-Three Rivers, said the highway segment is in line for $31 million worth of improvements. The improvements will be implemented from the state line to a point north of Three Rivers, the statement said.

    Brown, Shaffer and Granholm said the project will create jobs and significantly affect the region’s economy.

    Concerned residents pulled together to let Lansing know how important this project is, and I am glad that all of our hard work has finally paid off,” said Brown, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee…”

    I’m guessing that was the point where instead of the 4 lane limited access bypass that was supposed to be the cure all to make our world a better place, that we got this two lane bypass (which gives our village all the negatives of a bypass but very few of the positives)….complete with several roads that some of us use every day will now be cul de sacked.

    So great….we will have all this traffic gone, it’ll bother our downtown no more. Now we can try to support several gas stations and the handful of restaurants in our downtown all on our own because all the tourist traffic that used to flow through our town (a multibillion dollar industry in our state), well those folks won’t even know we are here to stop and fuel up and pick up food and road pops and snacks or stop and eat at our nice little restaurants. Not to worry, they will just stop off to the North where they get jammed up in traffic lights from all the gas stations and restaurants all right there on the highway. That is, until some smart entrepreneur or two starts building a few of these on our bypass….nice flat farmland where you don’t have to move alot of trees or displace alot of homes.

    Watch and see…..because that’s really all we can do at this point.

  4. And now for the Paul Harvey "Rest of the Story"

    OK….just so we are clear on MDOT’s commitment and how this project was killed and resurrected more than a couple times….here’s the link to that South Bend Tribune article.


    I don’t see this as an MDOT commitment–it seems more like a shotgun marriage and they are doing what they are told. It seems to me that based on needs based on traffic facts, seems clear that based on MDOT’s data that this project wasn’t necessary, and they tried to kill it based on that traffic data, but all the important people weren’t about to let that happen. Politicians seldom let the facts come in the way of the agenda…. facts are only relevant when it fits what “they” want.

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