By SARA QAMAR
Capital News Service
LANSING – The upcoming full construction and peak tourism season – widely known as orange cone season — has prompted the Department of Transportation (MDOT) to lessen the adverse impacts of road projects on travelers and commuters.
“Tourism is a huge industry in the state, and if possible we would like to keep the experience easier and more enjoyable for those coming into the state,” MDOT communications representative Carie Arend said.
Upcoming projects include a lane expansion project on I-94 near Kalamazoo and three bridge replacements on US-12 between Union in Cass County and Motville in St. Joseph County.
The I-94 project in Portage is in its final year and is widening the interstate to six lanes on both sides.
This year the westbound lanes are being rebuilt, and that will have the biggest impact on motorists, said Southwest Region MDOT communications representative Nick Schirripa.
The majority of I-94 traffic carries commuters between Chicago and Canada each day, Schirripa said.
One strategy that lessens inconvenience and delays is working on only one direction of the highway at a time. In the meantime, both westbound and eastbound traffic will be able to flow on the eastbound side, Schirripa said.
Reconstruction of bridges on US-12, however, will cause a detour of approximately three times longer than the six-mile stretch of work.
Because bridges cannot remain open during repairs, detours are the best option, especially on rural routes, he said.
“Locals will find their way around the work on their own. The detour is more for commercial traffic,” he said.
Commercial vehicles, mostly trucks, make up 350 of the 5,000 motorists who travel between Union and Motville on US-12 every day.
The roadwork may not deter tourists from coming into the state initially, but may affect whether they visit a second time or recommend Michigan as a desirable destination to family and friends, Michigan State University tourism expert Sarah Nicholls said.
“Tourists tend to remember the very best things about their trip, and they also tend to remember the worst experiences. So if someone happens to be on a route that’s single-lane for miles and miles, that’s going to negatively impact their experience,” she said.
Nicholls would like construction work to occur during off-season for travelers, but understands weather constraints make that impossible.
“It’s unfortunate the prime work season corresponds with peak tourism season,” she said.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.