MDOT mistake in Britton road project to cost taxpayers

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Engineers err in placement of curbs and gutters in Britton where newly installed concrete will be torn out and replaced at the intersection of M-50 and Main Street. Photo by Mickey Alvarado.

Construction of the new streetscape at the intersection of Main Street and M-50 in Britton has been halted due to a problem with the new design element restricting traffic flow from Main St. to M-50, especially for trucks traveling through the village. Concrete installed on the four corners will be torn out, and engineers with Michigan Department of Transportation will draw up a new plan that will address the issues with the intersection.

“A field inspection showed a problem turning because of the enhancement aspects at that intersection,” said Kari Arend, Communications Representative for MDOT.

Britton Village Supt. Jim Frayer said the issue came up at the bi-weekly progress meeting on Thursday, Aug. 2. Jerry Forsyth, Manager of the Britton Elevator discussed his concerns with how narrow the intersection had become with the new design at the corner. MDOT engineers then did a site survey and determined there was a problem with the space available at the intersection.

It is unclear who designed the enhancement. Arend said the village made the design suggestion to engineers, but Britton Village Council President Jack Chenault remembers it differently.

“We tried to tell them what was wrong with it, but they ignored us,” he said.

With his knowledge of the road system as well as travel through Britton, Forsyth had concerns right from the beginning about the changes at the intersection of Main St. and M-50. He explained that M-50 is a Class A road which means that there are no weight restrictions on it in the spring, making it a primary route for over-the-road truck travel.

The Britton Elevator has 6500 outgoing semi trucks every year that carry grain to customers. The elevator receives approximately 8,125 inbound trucks from farmers as well. This traffic all comes across Main St., which is the only north/south road to run in and out of Britton.

Road space in downtown Britton is a problem that is not easy to overcome. Main St. is narrow and would be difficult to widen because of the close proximity of the houses to the street. A main rail line carrying Canadian National and Norfolk Southern trains runs just east of the downtown businesses, according to Forsyth.

These trains travel between 40 and 60 miles an hour through the village. The combination of the short distance between Main St. and the railroad tracks, means it is important to avoid traffic back-ups in the lane traveling westbound on M-50. Forsyth estimates only three full-length semi trucks would fit between Main St. and the railroad tracks, before vehicles would sit on the tracks. At the wrong time of day this could lead to a collision of road and train traffic.

“The way the intersection is set up, there is not a safe way for a semi to turn north or south off of M-50,” Forsyth said, “I have concerns.” He explained that to make either an eastbound or westbound turn, a semi-truck would have to be in both lanes of Main Street.

“Britton is an agricultural community,” said Forsyth. “It doesn’t appear this was taken into account when the plans were drawn.” Despite the elevator’s location in the center of the village and the semi truck traffic that is part of this business, Forsyth was not contacted by anyone at MDOT for information before blueprints were drawn up.

Arend said MDOT’s plan is to tear out the concrete currently in place and redo the work after engineers come up with a new design plan. The added cost for the project is unknown until new plans are drawn up.

“I’m sure we’ll be doing a review,” said Arend when asked if MDOT would verify new blueprint designs with a site survey before new work is done on the intersection.

“We will make sure that whatever is proposed is safe for trucks and vehicles, and doesn’t impede turning movements,” she said.

The rest of the streetscape project will continue, including the streetscape in front of businesses, with completion set for later this month. “They want to keep this project moving along,” Arend said.

The finished intersection may not happen in 2012, although Arend said MDOT wants completion as soon as possible. For Britton residents any delay is disappointing, because of the disruption for residents and business owners in the village, which will increase when students return to school after Labor Day. “At this point it’s quite frustrating,” said Chenault.




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