US 41 Reconstruction: Local residents get glimpse at plan

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton residents listen Thursday to a presentation on the 2021 reconstruction of U.S. 41 from Montezuma Avenue to Townsend Drive.

HOUGHTON — The east entrance to Houghton on U.S. 41 will undergo a wide-ranging transformation in 2021.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) explained the upcoming road reconstruction project slated for Townsend Drive, College Avenue and west Montezuma Avenue during a public meeting Thursday.

Aging pavement was a factor in expediting the $6.5 million project, said Rob Tervo, manager of the MDOT’s Transportation Center in Ishpeming. Townsend Drive marks its 50-year anniversary this year.

“When we decided we were going to reconstruct the whole pavement, that gave us an opportunity to say, ‘What are we going to put back?'” he said.

On Townsend Drive, the road will be reduced from two 12-foot lanes to one 16-foot lane in both directions. The extra space will go toward widening the pedestrian traffic island in the middle. The change will make crossing safer for pedestrians, Tervo said.

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Officials from the Michigan Department of Transportation display an aerial map of U.S. 41 through Houghton and the campus of Michigan Technological University at Thursday’s meeting revealing details of the $6.5 million road reconstruction and expansion project.

“Right now, you’re crossing four lanes of traffic, and you could also end up with that situation where a car might stop, but the other car in the other lane doesn’t see you,” he said.

The biggest change on Townsend would be the elimination of direct left turns in favor of the “Michigan left” — areas where drivers would make U-turns.

At the intersection on Hubbell Street near the Memorial Union Building, drivers would go further down the road to a U-turn, or make a left turn at the traffic signal by MacInnes Drive.

“Most of your crashes happen involving left-hand turns somehow, and these are really great for handling a lot of traffic,” Tervo said.

College Avenue will expand from two lanes to three, adding a center left-turn lane. Currently, cars turning left halt traffic behind them, causing congestion and frequent rear-end collisions.

Sidewalks would be pushed back about two feet on either side. The existing light poles would be kept but moved back.

The east end of Montezuma Avenue will be reduced from three lanes to two. The ramp on the right side leading up to Ruby Street will be eliminated, and new sidewalk will be installed in its place.

“This will eliminate some jockeying at the last moment, where you find out you’re in the wrong lane,” Tervo said.

Houghton will also install water lines on College Avenue during the project. That work will be funded by the city.

Design work for the road reconstruction began in October and will continue over a two-year period. Construction is expected to begin at the start of the 2021 building season and wrap up by the end of October.

“This should be a one-season project,” Tervo said.

Resident and property owner Derek Bradway said his concerns were how to get drivers in and out of parking spots along the road and pedestrian traffic. He was encouraged by MDOT listening to the public’s ideas.

“I think they’ve thought a lot of things out,” he said. “There’s more to look at, but I think they’ve done their homework, and I think it’s going to be good for Houghton.”