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January 29, 2013

MDOT hosts open house regarding US-131 Constantine bypass project

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Written by: Bruce Snook
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Constantine High School sign - MDOT Open House

Plans for the US-131 bypass of Constantine were in the spotlight Monday evening (January 28th) during a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) open house at Constantine High School.

The two-hour event – from 5 to 7 p.m. – offered the chance to learn more about the project and pose questions to MDOT representatives.  It came one week before the February 4th starting date for construction of a two-lane bypass that includes a new 870-foot bridge over the St. Joseph River.

The US-131 Constantine bypass was the subject of a Michigan Department of Transportation open house Monday evening at Constantine High School. (Click on photo to enlarge)

 

State Representative Matt Lori, who is a Constantine resident, was among those on hand for the open house.  In commenting on the project during an interview with the River Country Journal, Lori said he’s been in town for 38 years and “can’t believe it’s actually, finally, going to happen.”  He said that not everyone may be happy with the final outcome and the route that’s been mapped out, but added, “I think, in the long run, it will be good for Constantine and good for St. Joseph County.  That’s what I’m banking on.”  Regarding concerns expressed by some that the bypass will have a negative impact on downtown Constantine, Lori said the community is “dedicated to re-inventing itself as far as the downtown” and he thinks that “if we get some of those things going” – things like a proposed micro-brewery – “people will actually take time to get off and see what Constantine is all about.”  (Matt Lori audio clip – :20)

Chuck Frisbie, superintendent of the Constantine Public Schools, attended the open house and said, “For us, our big issue is transportation and how it’s going to impact our bus routes, and how we’re going to get the buses across the bypass.”  (Chuck Frisbie audio clip – :20)

Although not affected directly by the bypass, Mottville Township Supervisor Brenda Hagen said she “wanted to see what they’ve finally come up with.”  She noted that she served for many years on the committee that worked to foster US-131 improvements.  She said, “We had envisioned a much larger project starting north of Schoolcraft and going to the Indiana state line, but I understand budget cuts have made this necessary.  They’ll at least get them off that old bridge in Constantine.”  Hagen said she doesn’t care for the cul-de-sacs on several roads in conjunction with the project and expressed concern about traffic on Riverside Drive, but, overall, it’s “a good thing” and “long overdue.”  (Brenda Hagen audio clip – :23)

Constantine Village Manager Mark Honeysett (left) discusses the US-131 bypass with Larry Doyle (center) and Jon Sytsma (right) of the Michigan Department of Transportation. (Click on photo to enlarge)

Jon Sytsma, cost & scheduling engineer with MDOT’s Transportation Service Center and design project manager for the bypass, was one of three MDOT representatives who conducted the open house.   During an interview, he described the new bridge over the St. Joseph River as the “critical path” for the project.  (Jon Sytsma audio clip – :22)

Sytsma said the construction schedule for the project is “aggressive,” but said MDOT anticipates getting done in November.

Regarding the open house, Sytsma said attendees had “a lot of questions” such as “when will my road be closed, how long will the project take” and “are they going to cut any trees by my house and, if so, can I have access to the wood?”  (Jon Sytsma audio clip – :24)

When asked about the potential for development along the bypass route, Sytsma said, “What we purchased here is limited access right-of-way and we’re going to operate this as a controlled access right-of-way route so we’ll have at-grade intersections so it won’t function as a freeway.  However, we will not permit private drives or businesses to allow entrances or exits to this roadway.”

Sytsma also noted the benefit that areas to the north will gain from the project:  “Obviously, the intention here is to get trucks from the state line up further north into Michigan with minimal impact on the community of Constantine so it’s designed with a mindset of how efficiently you can get trucks around Constantine and north of here.”

Reviewing the US-131 Constantine bypass route (Click on photo to enlarge)

When asked how he feels about the design for the bypass, Sytsma said, “We’re very confident in what we have here.   . . .  I’m very confident that it’s going to function well.”

Constantine Village President Pat Weiss and Village Manager Mark Honeysett attended the open house and reflected on the upcoming project during a River Country Journal interview.  Regarding the open house, Weiss said, “I feel very positive about this meeting.   . . .  I’m happy to see that MDOT has planned this.”  And, in commenting about concerns some have voiced about the impact on the downtown from the diversion of truck traffic via the bypass, she said, “I think that a lot of the merchants are looking forward to NOT having truck traffic because the truck traffic wasn’t stopping anyhow so I think it’s a good thing.”  (Pat Weiss audio clip – :10)  Honeysett agreed with Weiss regarding the impact of the bypass on downtown Constantine and said, “I’m thrilled.  I think that this is exactly what we need for downtown.”  (Mark Honeysett audio clip – :34).

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

Contractors DJ McQuestion & Sons and Rieth-Riley will lead the $18 million project.

For additional insights regarding the US-131 bypass project and Monday’s MDOT open house, click on the links below to hear the full interviews with the persons cited in this story.

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.

 

 






2 Comments


  1. Follow the yellow brick Road

    “When asked about the potential for development along the bypass route, Sytsma said, “What we purchased here is limited access right-of-way and we’re going to operate this as a controlled access right-of-way route so we’ll have at-grade intersections so it won’t function as a freeway. However, we will not permit private drives or businesses to allow entrances or exits to this roadway.”…..

    History has proven that MDOT really doesn’t have alot of control over that. When MDOT said no to the stoplight in Constantine because it would jam up all the traffic, all folks had to do was call their friend in Lansing and there the stop light is (you can check the news archives to verify that was against MDOT’s wishes). MDOT also said a bypass wasn’t necessary and backburnered the project in 2006….again, only to have some important folks call their friends in Lansing and now we have a bypass being built starting next week. So when MDOT says there is no plans for development for that land along the bypass,it seems that if the right people want it, rest assured some folks know people to get those MDOT plans changed. And just because MDOT allows no direct access to the bypass by businesses, they won’t control development from the access roads already intersecting the bypass (and do you really think local officials will say no to development to increase their tax base….gimme a break).

    “Sytsma also noted the benefit that areas to the north will gain from the project: “Obviously, the intention here is to get trucks from the state line up further north into Michigan with minimal impact on the community of Constantine so it’s designed with a mindset of how efficiently you can get trucks around Constantine and north of here.”….OK, so it will efficiently get the trucks to the North of Constantine and what lies just 5 minutes to the North of Constantine–a whole lotta stoplights. Yay MDOT!!!

    “And, in commenting about concerns some have voiced about the impact on the downtown from the diversion of truck traffic via the bypass, she (Mayor Pat Weiss) said, “I think that a lot of the merchants are looking forward to NOT having truck traffic because the truck traffic wasn’t stopping anyhow so I think it’s a good thing”….

    LOL..I suppose there are some merchants that rely more on local business that would welcome a bypass. But look at the make up of our downtown–alot of gas stations and restaurants. Politicians like Mayor Pat would have you thinking that it’s just truck traffic going thru town…it’s the cars with families that also come thru town and they do stop at our restaurants, and gas stations. I guess we just ignore the Charrette study from 1990 requested by our village and presented in our high school that said building a bypass would create a donut effect with the empty hole in that donut being our downtown with all development taking place along a bypass route.

    People say they would never see a bypass in their lifetime….I’ve already lived through one bypass to see all this play out on US 131 nearly 15 years ago and that 3yr build…and I am probably the only one in town that is going to get to watch the sequel.


  2. Follow the yellow brick Road

    And it sure would be nice to have wastewater pipeline kinda close to that bypass to tap in to for any kinda development….Oh, we do have a pipeline you say? Well how nice. And when did that pipeline all come about. Oh, about the time the village got active in the bypass talks? Hmmmmmm.

    And how did that treatment pipeline get approved. Oh yes, generic wording on a millage ballot when folks thought they were voting to fix their own treatment plant. And who was the village’s champion in the mid 90’s that wanted the wastewater treatment pipeline to TR and really wanted a bypass that appointed himself to the US 131 committee and made sure the 2nd member either lived on or had a business on the highway as the 2nd representative of our village? Wasn’t he the same mayor that made sure we had stop light in town when MDOT said no.

    No development off the bypass they say–what a joke. Is the picture getting any clearer yet folks?



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