Houghton residents give input on construction changes

HOUGHTON — Houghton residents got the chance to give their input on some upcoming changes to the town. The Michigan Department of Transportation held a public meeting at the City Center last night where the townspeople voiced their concerns and made suggestions that will be taken into consideration for a major reconstruction project that will take place on US-41.

“It’s going to be a little bit painful, it’s a tight corridor to work in, but when it’s finished, I think people are going to be really happy with it,” said Eric Waara, Houghton City Manager.

Waara discusses the proposed lane changes that will take place on the campus of Michigan Tech, and stretching to the downtown’s edge.

“In 2021 of course they’re going to redo College Avenue and Townsend Drive,” said Waara. “It’s a project that’s been a long time coming. People have been talking about this forever.”

Many came to last night’s meeting with concerns that MDOT officials were eager to learn about. Some where concerned that they might lose yard space from the widening project, others were concerned that tree’s would need to be removed, and many engaged in the discussion of where to place sidewalks. A founding reason for the project is to increase pedestrian safety- both College Ave and Townsend Drive have excessive foot traffic, and the department believes that the answer to pedestrian safety is to funnel the traffic flow into a single file lane.

“We’re going to drop one lane as you progress eastbound, and as you get to college avenue which is currently a two lane, is going to be a three lane, with the center lane being for left turns,” said Joel Kauppila, MDOT Cost and Scheduling Engineer. “As you enter campus, Townsend Avenue- we plan on reducing it to one lane in each direction and having turn lanes and indirect left turns to calm traffic where there’s a lot of pedestrians.”

That’s Joe Kauppila, who is the Costs and Scheduling Engineer for MDOT. He says that this meeting helps in the overall planning process.

“It’s kind of an introduction to the project and a discussion of the configuration of the lane changes that we’re proposing for that year,” said Kauppila.

Now that MDOT has had a chance to gather information from residents, engineers will begin adding adjustments. Execution of the project is still two years away.

“The plan right now is a 2021 construction year, which we will start about as early as we can in 2021. We’ll go through the whole summer and will be ending probably late fall.”