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South Bend Tribune: Funding secured to complete U.S. 31 connection to I-94 in Berrien County
Funding secured to complete U.S. 31 connection to I-94 in Berrien County
South Bend Tribune
December 8, 2018
The Michigan Department of Transportation has received a $20 million grant that will pay for the project connecting U.S. 31 from Napier Avenue to Interstate 94 in Berrien County.
In a release from U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, the discretionary grant will allow MDOT to finish the last 2 miles of the limited-access U.S. 31 freeway.
“We’re so excited to announce this project will be completed — finally,” Upton said in the statement. “Completing this project will ensure southwest Michigan remains a hub for economic competitiveness, jobs and growth now and in the future.”
The U.S. 31 connector portion is one phase in a three-part, $92 million construction project that MDOT placed in its five-year plan in 2016.
U.S. 31, also known as the St. Joseph Valley Parkway, now dead-ends at Napier Avenue in Berrien County. That means northbound U.S. 31 motorists need to go west on Napier Avenue for nearly 2 miles to reach I-94.
But thanks to the project, U.S. 31 will be extended north to link with I-94 at Exit 33 in Benton Harbor. And from that point on I-94, motorists can quickly hop on Interstate 196 at Exit 34 to go to Holland and Grand Rapids.
At a meeting in August 2016, state officials announced the projects phases. Along with extending U.S. 31, the plan called for resurfacing 10 miles of I-94 and rebuilding the interchange where U.S. 31 and I-94 will join.
The roughly $60 million for the project’s two phases — the resurfacing and interchange work — has been secured. But MDOT had not yet acquired the money needed for extending the highway until Thursday’s announcement of the $20 million grant.
In that 2016 meeting, the agency said it had planned to start the first two phases of the project in 2021, finishing them by 2022. But the timetable for extending the highway will depend on when MDOT secures additional funding.
“We’re committed to completing this project, and that commitment won’t waiver,” officials said at that time. “We’d love to do all the work at once, but that will depend on whether we find the funding from the legislature for the U.S. 31 connection in the next few years.”