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M-6 (Michigan highway)

M-6 (Michigan highway)

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M-6, or the Paul B. Henry Freeway, is a 19.696 miles (31.7 km) freeway and state trunkline highway
Michigan Highway System
The Michigan State Trunkline Highway System is made up of all the highways designated as Interstates, U.S. Highways and State Highways in the US state of Michigan. The system is maintained by the Michigan Department of Transportation and comprises of trunklines in all 83 counties of Michigan on...

 in the United States that serves portions of southern Kent
Kent County, Michigan
-Air Service:*Commercial air service to Grand Rapids is provided by Gerald R. Ford International Airport . Previously named Kent County International Airport, it holds Grand Rapids' mark in modern history with the United States' first regularly scheduled airline service, beginning July 31, 1926,...

 and eastern Ottawa
Ottawa County, Michigan
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 238,314 people, 81,662 households, and 61,328 families residing in the county. The population density was 421 people per square mile . There were 86,856 housing units at an average density of 154 per square mile...

 counties south of Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. The city is located on the Grand River about 40 miles east of Lake Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 188,040. In 2010, the Grand Rapids metropolitan area had a population of 774,160 and a combined statistical area, Grand...

, Michigan. Although the freeway is named for Paul B. Henry
Paul B. Henry
Paul Brentwood Henry was a professor of political science and politician from the U.S. state of Michigan.-Early life and career:...

, local residents and the press continue to use the original name, South Beltline as well on occasion. The freeway connects Interstate 196
Interstate 196
Interstate 196 is a long freeway spur route in the US state of Michigan linking Grand Rapids, Holland, South Haven, and Benton Harbor. I-196 is known as the Gerald R. Ford Freeway, or simply the Ford Freeway, in Kent, Ottawa, and Allegan Counties, after the 38th President of the United States,...

 (I-196) on the west with I-96
Interstate 96
Interstate 96 is an intrastate Interstate Highway that is entirely within the US state of Michigan. Its western terminus is at an interchange with US Highway 31 and Business US Highway 31 , on the western boundary of Norton Shores southeast of Muskegon. Its eastern terminus is at I-75 near the...

 on the east. M-6 also provides a connection to U.S. Highway 131 (US 131) in the middle of its corridor while running through several townships
Township (United States)
A township in the United States is a small geographic area. Townships range in size from 6 to 54 square miles , with being the norm.The term is used in three ways....

 on the south side of the Grand Rapids metropolitan area
Grand Rapids metropolitan area
The metropolitan area surrounds the central city of Grand Rapids, Michigan.Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is located in the outskirts of Grand Rapids,the Grand Rapids Art Museum, and the DeVos Place Convention Center both in downtown Grand Rapids....

 in Western Michigan
Western Michigan
West Michigan and Western Michigan are terms for an arbitrarily selected region in the U.S. state of Michigan in its Lower Peninsula. There is no official definition for what constitutes "West Michigan." The area of West Michigan may also include parts Southern Michigan.-Definition:In general,...

. Each end is in a rural area while the central section has suburban development along the trunkline.

The freeway was originally conceived in the 1960s. It took 32 years to approve, plan, finance, and build the freeway from the time that the state first authorized funding in 1972 to the time of the ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2004 that opened the South Beltline to traffic. The project cost around $700 million or around $35 million per mile (approximately $22 million per kilometer). Initial construction started in November 1997, with the first phase opened in November 2001. The full freeway was opened in November 2004. The first phase of construction was completed in asphalt
Asphalt
Asphalt or , also known as bitumen, is a sticky, black and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid that is present in most crude petroleums and in some natural deposits, it is a substance classed as a pitch...

, while the second and third phases were built in concrete. The project was built with two firsts: the first single-point urban interchange
Single-point urban interchange
A single-point urban interchange , also called a single-point interchange or single-point diamond interchange , is a type of highway interchange...

 (SPUI; icon) in Michigan, and a new technique to apply the pavement markings, embedding them into the concrete to reduce the chance of a snowplow scraping them off. In advance of the opening of the freeway to traffic, the Michigan Department of Transportation
Michigan Department of Transportation
The Michigan Department of Transportation is a constitutional government agency in the US state of Michigan. The primary purpose of MDOT is to maintain the Michigan State Trunkline Highway System which includes all Interstate, US and state highways in Michigan with the exception of the Mackinac...

 (MDOT) allowed the public to walk or bike the South Beltline in an open-house event called the "Southbelt Shuffle".

Route description



M-6 starts at exit 64 on I-196 in Ottawa County
Ottawa County, Michigan
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 238,314 people, 81,662 households, and 61,328 families residing in the county. The population density was 421 people per square mile . There were 86,856 housing units at an average density of 154 per square mile...

 near Hudsonville
Hudsonville, Michigan
Hudsonville is a city in Ottawa County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 7,160.-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 7,160 people, 2,514 households, and 1,920 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,729.1 per square mile...

. The freeway runs southeast from the interchange through the rural Georgetown
Georgetown Township, Michigan
Georgetown Charter Township is a charter township of Ottawa County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 41,658 at the 2000 census...

 and Jamestown townships toward the county line. Through this area, MDOT traffic surveys measured a traffic count of 27,117 vehicles on average per day, the lowest along the freeway, in 2010. At Kenowa Avenue, the South Beltline crosses into Byron Township
Byron Township, Michigan
Byron Township is a civil township of Kent County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2000 census, the township population was 17,553.- Communities :...

 in Kent County
Kent County, Michigan
-Air Service:*Commercial air service to Grand Rapids is provided by Gerald R. Ford International Airport . Previously named Kent County International Airport, it holds Grand Rapids' mark in modern history with the United States' first regularly scheduled airline service, beginning July 31, 1926,...

. The freeway corridor is bounded on each side by farmland, scattered subdivisions, and small pockets of woodland. Near the Wilson Avenue interchange, M-6 curves to the northwest around the edge of the Ironwood Golf Course and heads for the interchange with Byron Center Avenue. On either side of the freeway at Byron Center Avenue, there are two hospitals, Metro Health and St. Mary's Southwest, the former located on the very southern edge of the city of Wyoming
Wyoming, Michigan
Wyoming is a city in Kent County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 72,125. That makes it the 2nd largest community or city in West Michigan, the 14th largest city in the state of Michigan, and the 18th largest community in the state as well...

. Continuing east, the beltline curves to the southeast and into the cloverleaf interchange
Cloverleaf interchange
A cloverleaf interchange is a two-level interchange in which left turns, reverse direction in left-driving regions, are handled by ramp roads...

 complex at US 131. This "mammoth" interchange stretches over a half mile (0.8 km) in one direction and over a mile (1.6 km) in the other,As measured by mainline freeway lane lengths. encompassing 27 bridges and 18 retaining walls. This makes it the largest freeway interchange in Western Michigan
Western Michigan
West Michigan and Western Michigan are terms for an arbitrarily selected region in the U.S. state of Michigan in its Lower Peninsula. There is no official definition for what constitutes "West Michigan." The area of West Michigan may also include parts Southern Michigan.-Definition:In general,...

. There are four overpasses which carry M-6 over the US 131 freeway: two for the main carriageway
Carriageway
A carriageway consists of a width of road on which a vehicle is not restricted by any physical barriers or separation to move laterally...

s in each direction and two for the collector-distributor lanes on each side. The auxiliary lanes funnel the traffic using the interchange off the main carriageways to eliminate conflicts between merging streams of traffic. In the eastbound direction, the collector-distributor lane also has access to a ramp for traffic bound for 68th Street, which runs parallel to, and south of, the M-6 freeway. No such access to 68th Street is provided for westbound M-6 traffic, although 68th Street traffic can access each direction of M-6 or US 131.
East of US 131, M-6 crosses over Division Avenue and enters Gaines Township
Gaines Township, Kent County, Michigan
Gaines Charter Township is a charter township of Kent County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 20,112 at the 2000 census.The township is about 13 miles south of downtown Grand Rapids. It is directly south of the city of Kentwood. The Charter Township of Caledonia and Village of...

 through a series of sound barrier walls as the freeway ramps merge back in to the main lanes. This area had the highest traffic counts in 2011 at 55,236 vehicles per day. Near Kalamazoo Avenue, the freeway passes through an area with retail businesses and movie theaters on each side of the interchange; to the northeast is East Kentwood High School
East Kentwood High School
East Kentwood High School is a public high school located just outside the city of Kentwood, Michigan, United States. It is part of the Kentwood Public Schools district, working together with the Crossroads High School, an alternative learning center...

. On the approach to the East Paris Avenue underpass, M-6 curves first to the northeast and then back to the southeast, passing near one of Steelcase
Steelcase
Steelcase is an international office furniture company founded in 1912 in Grand Rapids, Michigan — as The Metal Office Furniture Company. The company at the time specialized in file cabinets and safes. Today, the company sells products related to interior architecture, furniture and technology...

's office buildings, the pyramid-shaped Corporate Development Center. The freeway begins to curve to the northeast as it crosses into Caledonia Township
Caledonia Township, Kent County, Michigan
The Charter Township of Caledonia is a charter township of Kent County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 8,964 at the 2000 census.-Communities:*The Village of Caledonia is within the township on M-37 in the southeast part of the township....

, with an interchange for M-37
M-37 (Michigan highway)
M-37 is a north–south state trunkline highway in the US state of Michigan. The southern terminus is near the border between Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties at exit 92 of Interstate 94 southwest of Battle Creek. The northern terminus is at the Mission Point Light on Old Mission Point in Grand...

 (Broadmoor Avenue) and an overpass for 60th Street. M-6 curves around the southeast side of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport
Gerald R. Ford International Airport
Gerald R. Ford International Airport is a commercial airport located approximately southeast of Grand Rapids, Michigan in Cascade Township. Originally called Kent County Airport and later Kent County International Airport; in December 1999 the airport was renamed for former resident Gerald R....

 in Cascade Township
Cascade Township, Michigan
Cascade Charter Township is a charter township of Kent County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 15,107 at the 2000 census.The township is situated in the southeastern section of Kent County, approximately 10 miles southeast of Grand Rapids. A defining feature of the township is the...

. As the South Beltline nears I-96, it crosses 48th Street next to the Thornapple Pointe Golf Course. The carriageway splits into ramps for each direction of I-96, the ramps to eastbound I-96 crossing over the Thornapple River
Thornapple River
The Thornapple River is an tributary of Michigan's longest river, the Grand River. The Thornapple is located in western Michigan. It joins the Grand in Ada, Michigan.- Description :...

 in the process. This interchange marks the eastern terminus of the Paul B. Henry South Beltline Freeway. The entire length of the freeway is listed on the National Highway System
National Highway System (United States)
The National Highway System is a network of strategic highways within the United States, including the Interstate Highway System and other roads serving major airports, ports, rail or truck terminals, railway stations, pipeline terminals and other strategic transport facilities.Individual states...

, a system of roads important to the nation's economy, defense and mobility.

The right-of-way along M-6 includes a 9 miles (14.5 km) pedestrian path known as the Frederik Meijer Trail
Frederik Meijer Trail
The Frederik Meijer Trail, formerly called the M-6 Trail, is a hiking/biking trail in Kent County, Michigan. It connects the Paul Henry Rail Trail with the Kent Trails in Byron Township, Michigan.-Trail description:...

. Previously called the M-6 Trail, it links the Kent Trails
Kent Trails
Kent Trails is a fifteen mile rail trail in Kent County, Michigan that runs through the cities of Grand Rapids, Grandville, Walker, Wyoming and Byron Townshipand is part of a network of trails in and around Grand Rapids...

 west of Byron Center Avenue in Wyoming
Wyoming, Michigan
Wyoming is a city in Kent County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 72,125. That makes it the 2nd largest community or city in West Michigan, the 14th largest city in the state of Michigan, and the 18th largest community in the state as well...

 with the Paul Henry Rail Trail
Paul Henry Rail Trail
The Paul Henry Rail Trail is a rail trail in Kentwood, Michigan. Originally running from 44th Street and Kalamazoo in a southeasterly direction to 60th street, the trail now connects with both the Thornapple Trail and Kent Trails. It has a wide paved surface. It is part of the North Country...

 at 60th Street and Wing Avenue by Paris Park in Kentwood
Kentwood, Michigan
Kentwood is a city in Kent County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 48,707 at the 2010 census, making it the second most populous suburb of Grand Rapids and the 25th most populous city in Michigan.-History:...

.

Earlier designations



The first appearance of M-6 was in 1926 as a 2 miles (3.2 km) road in Keweenaw County
Keweenaw County, Michigan
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 2,301 people, 998 households, and 604 families residing in the county. The population density was 4 people per square mile . There were 2,327 housing units at an average density of 4 per square mile...

 in the Upper Peninsula
Upper Peninsula of Michigan
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the northern of the two major land masses that make up the U.S. state of Michigan. It is commonly referred to as the Upper Peninsula, the U.P., or Upper Michigan. It is also known as the land "above the Bridge" linking the two peninsulas. The peninsula is bounded...

. The highway ran from US 41
U.S. Route 41 in Michigan
US Highway 41 is a part of the United States Numbered Highway System that runs from Miami, Florida, to the Upper Peninsula of the US state of Michigan. In Michigan, it is a state trunkline highway that enters the state via the Interstate Bridge between Marinette, Wisconsin, and Menominee,...

 at Phoenix
Phoenix, Michigan
Phoenix is an unincorporated community in Keweenaw County, Michigan, United States. Phoenix lies at the junction of M-26 and US 41. Phoenix lies about two miles south of Eagle River, Michigan, near the shores of Lake Superior.-Copper:...

 to north of Eagle River
Eagle River, Michigan
Eagle River is an unincorporated community in the U.S. state of Michigan and is the county seat of Keweenaw County.The community is on M-26 on the north side of the Keweenaw Peninsula, which projects into Lake Superior. It is about 27 miles northeast of Houghton and is situated in the northwest...

. The Michigan State Highway Department redesignated the highway as M-111 in 1938, and it was redesignated two years later to become a part of the route of M-26
M-26 (Michigan highway)
M-26 is a state trunkline highway in the U.S. state of Michigan, running from two miles east of Rockland to its junction with US Highway 41 in Copper Harbor. It generally runs southwest-to-northeast in the western half or Michigan's Upper Peninsula...

.

In the late 1970s, during the second phase of construction of the I-696 (Walter P. Reuther Freeway)
Interstate 696
Interstate 696 is an intrastate Interstate Highway entirely within the US state of Michigan. I-696 is also known as the Walter P. Reuther Freeway, named for a prominent figure in early automobile factory labor union activity. I-696 is a spur route, partially circling the city of Detroit, but...

 in Metro Detroit
Metro Detroit
The Detroit metropolitan area, often referred to as Metro Detroit, is the metropolitan area located in Southeast Michigan centered on the city of Detroit which shares an international border with Windsor, Ontario. The Detroit metropolitan area is the second largest U.S. metropolitan area...

, lobbying
Lobbying
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by various people or groups, from private-sector individuals or corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or...

 efforts and lawsuits attempted to block construction of the central section. If successful, the efforts would have left the freeway with a gap in the middle between the first (western) and second (eastern) phases of construction. During this time, MDOT assigned M-6 to the eastern section of the freeway under construction. Signs were erected along the service roads that followed 11 Mile Road to connect the already built stack interchange
Stack interchange
A stack interchange is a free-flowing grade separated junction between two roads.In countries where one drives on the right, left turns are handled by semi-directional flyover/under ramps...

 at I-75
Interstate 75 in Michigan
Interstate 75 is a part of the Interstate Highway System and runs from Miami, Florida to Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I-75 enters the state from Ohio in the south, just to the north of Toledo. It runs generally north through Detroit, Pontiac and Bay City, crossing the...

 east to I-94
Interstate 94 in Michigan
Interstate 94 is a part of the Interstate Highway System that runs from Billings, Montana, to the Lower Peninsula of the US state of Michigan. In Michigan, it is a state trunkline highway that enters the state south of New Buffalo...

. By the time the eastern freeway segment was completed in 1979, the signage for M-6 was removed and replaced with I-696 signage, leaving an 8 miles (12.9 km) gap in the I-696 freeway until completion of the central section in 1989.

Planning


The South Beltline Freeway near Grand Rapids was a project that took about 32 years to complete. The idea dates back to the 1940s, but serious proposals were not made until the 1960s. The 1955 planning map for the Grand Rapids area Interstate Highways included a freeway roughly along the M-6 corridor before I-96 and I-196 were shifted north and east to their current locations. An increase in the state gas tax was approved in 1972 with the goal to finance local road projects in the state, including the South Beltline. The project was anticipated to cost $30–100 million in June 1975 with an expected groundbreaking in 1982–85. The highway was studied in January 1981 for $144,000. The choice of consultants on the project was controversial; local planners felt that MDOT picked BKI Inc. only because they used a minority-owned subcontractor
Minority Business Enterprise
A Minority Business Enterprise is an American term which is defined as a business which is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled on a daily basis by one or more American citizens of the following ethnic minority classifications:...

 and not because they would be qualified for the assignment.

As this study was initiated, the route for the proposed freeway was located between 60th and 68th streets with a western end in Hudsonville
Hudsonville, Michigan
Hudsonville is a city in Ottawa County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 7,160.-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 7,160 people, 2,514 households, and 1,920 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,729.1 per square mile...

 and an eastern end in Lowell Township
Lowell Township, Michigan
Lowell Charter Township is a charter township of Kent County in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2000 census, the township population was 5,219...

. The consultants were asked to study a full freeway and a limited access boulevard
Boulevard
A Boulevard is type of road, usually a wide, multi-lane arterial thoroughfare, divided with a median down the centre, and roadways along each side designed as slow travel and parking lanes and for bicycle and pedestrian usage, often with an above-average quality of landscaping and scenery...

 design. One final option was a "no-build" alternative; under this option, existing roads would be upgraded but no new roads would be built. The City of Grand Rapids
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. The city is located on the Grand River about 40 miles east of Lake Michigan. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 188,040. In 2010, the Grand Rapids metropolitan area had a population of 774,160 and a combined statistical area, Grand...

 opposed the freeway while the suburbs and townships south and west of the city supported it. City officials were concerned about the impact to commercial and industrial business in Grand Rapids. Hudsonville's city manager favored the proposal as a benefit to local vegetable producers who shipped produce to Detroit or Cleveland. Other supporters, such as the Georgetown Township
Georgetown Township, Michigan
Georgetown Charter Township is a charter township of Ottawa County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 41,658 at the 2000 census...

 supervisor, were concerned that delays in starting the project could increase costs. State and local officials expected the freeway in January 1981 to cost between $40–100 million. The road was to be started no sooner than 1990.
The boundaries for the highway corridor were determined by the consultants in April 1982, running between 60th and 84th streets, "dipping like a hammock beneath the cities of Kentwood and Wyoming". The results of the study by BKI were criticized by local planners in May 1982, who called the study "shabby and unprofessional work", and asked the state to fire the consulting firm. Local residents distributed 2,000 fliers to their neighbors in opposition to the freeway. The South Belt Local Advisory Board criticized BKI's 110-page study report as "filled with errors"; the consultants' earlier 26-page paper had been rejected by the board and MDOT as "unusable". An editorial in the The Grand Rapids Press stated that the study did not help advance the project in the area, instead opening the proposed freeway up to new controversies. Doubts about the state's budget in 1982 to build the roadway combined with issues over the consultants and their study results.

A second citizens group, the South Belt Citizens Committee, was formed in July 1982 to gain additional public information on the project and supplement the work of the other groups, including the South Belt Local Advisory Board. BKI was fired as consultant on the project by MDOT on September 9, 1982. The switch to a new consultant delayed further study because of the timetable to take bids and interview the candidates. In the interim, work was shifted to local and state planners until a new consultant could be retained in an effort to minimize the delays involved. These local projects were focused on updating the information and maps from BKI's study and refining the scope of the highway's corridor.

Gaines, Cascade, and Caledonia townships and the city of Kentwood circulated a survey amongst their communities' planning commissions and elected boards in 1982. The survey showed an inconclusive preference for a limited-access highway in what was termed a "gut level reaction" to the proposed roadway. The South Belt Citizens Committee actively started to oppose the roadway during the fall of 1982, pressing local candidates for political office to take positions on the project. The group called the roadway a "holocaust" in its mailings to the candidates. Future Lieutenant Governor Dick Posthumus
Dick Posthumus
Richard Posthumus is an American farmer, businessman, and politician. He was the 59th Lieutenant Governor of Michigan and majority leader of the Michigan Senate. In 2002, he was the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Michigan....

, then a member of the Michigan State Senate, called for an end to the studies in 1983; he would later reverse and become one of the project's biggest supporters.

MDOT hired a new consultant, Schimpeler/Coradino Associates, in 1984 to study the proposed freeway. The consultant recommended the freeway in March 1985. The South Beltline was included in the ten-year highway plan in 1986. By 1989, the state wanted to set the route in 1991 with construction starting in 1993. The freeway was studied as a possible toll road
Toll road
A toll road is a privately or publicly built road for which a driver pays a toll for use. Structures for which tolls are charged include toll bridges and toll tunnels. Non-toll roads are financed using other sources of revenue, most typically fuel tax or general tax funds...

 in June 1991 after three alternative routes were proposed the previous year. That September, the final route was set with a projected start date in 1997. The toll road concept was revived in September 1995 to offset the failure of a proposed gas tax increase. As a cost-saving measure, the number of interchanges was reduced to four from eight in June 1996. When a gas tax increase was passed in 1997, Governor John Engler
John Engler
John Mathias Engler is an American politician and a member of the Republican Party. He served as the 46th Governor of Michigan from 1991 to 2003....

 promised at least seven access points for the freeway. The South Beltline was touted as "[cutting] travel time around Grand Rapids virtually in half".

Phase I



Proposals for the South Beltline Freeway were nearly 25 years old by the time initial construction was started in 1997. The Michigan State Legislature named the South Beltline around the same time for the Congressman Paul B. Henry
Paul B. Henry
Paul Brentwood Henry was a professor of political science and politician from the U.S. state of Michigan.-Early life and career:...

, who died in office in 1993, serving in Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford
Gerald Rudolph "Jerry" Ford, Jr. was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, and the 40th Vice President of the United States serving from 1973 to 1974...

's old US House seat. The cost of the construction of new roads like the South Beltline was a campaign issue when Engler ran for re-election against Geoffrey Feiger in 1998. The entire freeway was projected to open by 2008, with the first phase opening in 2002. MDOT gave the South Beltline its numerical designation on the July 1999 edition of the state map, marking M-6 for the first time as a dotted line, to denote it was "under construction". The legislature approved Engler's "Build Michigan III" program in 2000; the plan accelerated road projects in the state. The capital outlay for the year was $82 million. Condemnation
Eminent domain
Eminent domain , compulsory purchase , resumption/compulsory acquisition , or expropriation is an action of the state to seize a citizen's private property, expropriate property, or seize a citizen's rights in property with due monetary compensation, but without the owner's consent...

 proceedings were initiated in the Kent County
Kent County, Michigan
-Air Service:*Commercial air service to Grand Rapids is provided by Gerald R. Ford International Airport . Previously named Kent County International Airport, it holds Grand Rapids' mark in modern history with the United States' first regularly scheduled airline service, beginning July 31, 1926,...

 Circuit Court in 1999 to clear the way for the acquisitions. Land that contained homes, farms, trailer parks, and businesses was purchased by MDOT to acquire the right-of-way needed for the freeway. The land needed measured 360 feet (109.7 m) wide and 20 miles (32.2 km) long. Land acquisitions for the South Beltline Freeway were completed in July 2001. Construction started later in the fall of 2001 on the second and third phases of the project.

The first leg of the South Beltline Freeway, located between M-37
M-37 (Michigan highway)
M-37 is a north–south state trunkline highway in the US state of Michigan. The southern terminus is near the border between Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties at exit 92 of Interstate 94 southwest of Battle Creek. The northern terminus is at the Mission Point Light on Old Mission Point in Grand...

 (Broadmoor Avenue) and I-96
Interstate 96
Interstate 96 is an intrastate Interstate Highway that is entirely within the US state of Michigan. Its western terminus is at an interchange with US Highway 31 and Business US Highway 31 , on the western boundary of Norton Shores southeast of Muskegon. Its eastern terminus is at I-75 near the...

, was finished six months early. Dry summer weather allowed the roadbed contractors to finish their portion of the 5 miles (8 km) section of the freeway early, earning them a $300,000 bonus. The overpasses for the remaining sections of the freeway were completed while the first phase was under construction, leaving the interchanges at US 131 and I-196 and the connecting roadbed to be completed at that time. The first section was paved in asphalt
Asphalt
Asphalt or , also known as bitumen, is a sticky, black and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid that is present in most crude petroleums and in some natural deposits, it is a substance classed as a pitch...

 after MDOT reversed the decision to pave the whole freeway in concrete
Concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

. That stretch of freeway opened to traffic on November 20, 2001. The state kept the overall project in an accelerated status headed into the next phases in 2002.

Phases II and III



Construction of the remaining phases between US 131 and M-37 and between I-196 and US 131 was started on April 1, 2002. Area roads that crossed the path of the new freeway were closed to traffic with posted detours so that work could begin on the roadbed for the freeway. The last major project for the freeway was to replace bridge beams in the overpasses from westbound I-196 to eastbound M-6. Design flaws were found in 2002 in the size of the beams in the bridges over eastbound I-196 and the ramp from westbound M-6 to westbound I-196. The replacement was originally supposed to close traffic along I-196 over a weekend in 2004, but kept a lane closed for a full week, backing up traffic on the Interstate for 2 miles (3.2 km); completion of the work was delayed when human error caused a shortage of nuts and bolts.
MDOT hosted an open house along the unopened section of M-6 between Kalamazoo and Byron Center avenues. This event took place on October 2, 2004, and was billed as the "Southbelt Shuffle", allowing the public to walk or bike along the freeway. The event was planned to draw attention to the M-6 Trail that runs parallel to the freeway. Some event participants brought their horses for the chance to ride on the freeway. The whole freeway was opened to traffic on November 17, 2004, after a ribbon cutting ceremony. When opened, reconstruction work was still being completed on overpass bridges at the I-196 interchange on the west end. The entire project cost $700 million to complete over the five-year construction period, about $35 million/mi (approximately $22 million/km). When the freeway was opened, it was the first in the state of Michigan to use a SPUI
Single-point urban interchange
A single-point urban interchange , also called a single-point interchange or single-point diamond interchange , is a type of highway interchange...

 located at the Kalamazoo Avenue exit. All of the bridges and sound barrier walls were painted sienna beige as part of a "color theme" to the freeway. MDOT also used a new technique to recess the pavement markings into the concrete, designed to reduce the likelihood that snowplows would scrape them off. The signs are in miles, but "the entire M-6 freeway was designed and constructed in metric", according to MDOT manager Suzette Peplinksi. The final ramps opened to traffic on December 9, 2004.

After construction



MDOT added the completed M-6 to the state maps in an updated printing in June 2005. At the time, the various online mapping services still did not show a complete freeway in eastern Ottawa or southern Kent counties. Services such as Mapquest
MapQuest
MapQuest is an American free online web mapping service owned by AOL. The company was founded in 1967 as Cartographic Services, a division of R.R. Donnelley & Sons in Chicago, Illinois, United States. It moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1969. When it became an independent company in 1994, it was...

 and Yahoo! Maps
Yahoo! Maps
Yahoo! Maps is a free online mapping portal provided by Yahoo!.-News:*On May 16, 2007, Yahoo! released a new map style designed by the cartography company...

 rely on Tele Atlas
Tele Atlas
Tele Atlas is a Netherlands-based company founded in 1984 which delivers digital maps and other dynamic content for navigation and location-based services, including personal and in-car navigation systems, and provides data used in a wide range of mobile and Internet map applications...

 out of New Hampshire for their mapping information, which, in turn, relies on agencies like MDOT to update their data. MDOT's map update came out nearly eight months after the initial opening due to its inclusion in a large-scale update to the state highway map.

A year after the freeway opened, traffic volumes along parallel roads like 44th, 56th and 68th streets dropped 40–50%. At the same time, roads with interchanges along the freeway saw increased traffic. Wilson Avenue experienced a 120% increase and sections of Byron Center Avenue jumped 100% in traffic levels a month after M-6 opened. Property values in the townships surrounding the freeway increased 11.3–12.4% by 2006 as a result of development attached to the freeway. Local officials credited the freeway for increased access to the area, driving housing starts as residents flocked to the communities for their schools and quality of life. In 2007, the Metro Health Village, a commercial development centered around the Byron Center Avenue exit and the hospital opened. Described as being similar to a mall with the hospital as a tenant, the village features restaurants, shops, offices and a hotel. Metro Health relocated from Grand Rapids to the location in Wyoming in the face of opposition to planned expansions of their previous location. Since opening, even though the freeway was officially named for Paul Henry, the original South Beltline name is still in use.

Reactions to the new freeway were not all positive. In a special editorial in the The Grand Rapids Press after the freeway opened in 2004, local resident Curt MacDougall summarized the criticisms of the new freeway. He cited the loss of rural farmland and wetlands as a negative effect of the highway. The editorial also discussed that the freeway does decrease travel times for some residents, but it will mean increased development. That development will mean further urban sprawl
Urban sprawl
Urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is a multifaceted concept, which includes the spreading outwards of a city and its suburbs to its outskirts to low-density and auto-dependent development on rural land, high segregation of uses Urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is a...

, and could spur the creation of additional highways in the area.

The M-6 Trail was constructed in a $3.5 million project that started in 2008. The goal was to create a 10 feet (3 m) path linking the Kent Trails
Kent Trails
Kent Trails is a fifteen mile rail trail in Kent County, Michigan that runs through the cities of Grand Rapids, Grandville, Walker, Wyoming and Byron Townshipand is part of a network of trails in and around Grand Rapids...

 with the Paul Henry Rail Trail
Paul Henry Rail Trail
The Paul Henry Rail Trail is a rail trail in Kentwood, Michigan. Originally running from 44th Street and Kalamazoo in a southeasterly direction to 60th street, the trail now connects with both the Thornapple Trail and Kent Trails. It has a wide paved surface. It is part of the North Country...

. The M-6 Trail was the brainchild of Gaines Township Supervisor Don Hilton, Sr. He had pushed to have the path included in the original freeway construction and opened with the rest of the South Beltline. The trail project was funded by $2.9 million in federal grants and $300,000 from the Frederik and Lena Meijer Foundation
Fred Meijer (businessman)
Frederik Gerhard Hendrik Meijer was the Chairman of the Meijer hypermarket chain in Michigan, United States.-Biography:...

. The balance came from Kent County and the townships. Work on the trail was completed in November 2008.

In 2009, the asphalt section of M-6 had to be repaired. This section of roadway between East Paris Avenue and 48th Street was rated poorly by the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, while the concrete west of Broadmoor Avenue had favorable marks. MDOT budgeted $2 million in repairs on top of previous crack-related fixes that were handled by the original pavement contractor under a warranty in 2006. The local press described the 4.7 miles (7.6 km) stretch of road as "troublesome" in relation to pavement quality issues.

Exit list


See also


  • Maryland Route 200, a freeway bypass in Maryland that has a similar history


External links