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My Town: Two state construction projects recognized nationally | Environment

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My Town: Two state construction projects recognized nationally
My Town: Two state construction projects recognized nationally

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (MDOT)-- The Michigan Department of Transportation's M-231 bridge over Little Robinson Creek in Ottawa County, and the city of Grand Rapids' Plainfield Avenue reconstruction project have been selected by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) as winners in the 2014 America's Transportation Awards competition.

The awards were presented today at the Mid America Association of State Transportation Officials (MAASTO) regional conference in Indianapolis. The competition was created in 2008 with the support of AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to acknowledge the performance of state departments of transportation that are leading the way in bringing high value for the public's investment. Projects nominated in this competition are making communities stronger, our economy more efficient and our quality of life better.  

 As regional winners, both projects will now be considered for inclusion in the "Top Ten" projects in the competition, which will be announced in early September. These projects will then compete for the Grand Prize and the People's Choice Awards. The Grand Prize winner is selected by a panel of transportation experts, and the People's Choice Award is chosen online by the voting public. Both prizes carry a $10,000 cash prize to support a transportation-related scholarship or charitable cause.

Plainfield Avenue was selected as the winner in the "Quality of Life/Community Development, Small" category, while the M-231 project over Little Robinson Creek is the winner in the "Under Budget, Small" category. These projects help connect people to businesses, jobs, health care facilities, and recreational activities while encouraging a mix of transportation modes, especially non-motorized transportation.

"This is a great example of several agencies and MDOT offices working together to reach a common goal," said State Transportation Director Kirk Steudle. "Both projects are unique, innovative and will benefit travelers and Michigan residents for years to come. It's an honor to be recognized."

The new bridge over Little Robinson Creek is 548 feet long and approximately 30 feet above the Grand River. It is one of 10 bridges being constructed for the new M-231, which is scheduled to open to traffic in spring 2016. The bridge is designed to minimize the impact on the environment by spanning the creek, as well as connected wetlands and the flood plain. Despite the challenges of constructing a new bridge in the middle of an environmentally sensitive corridor, the project was finished for $1.2 million less than the engineer’s estimate of $6.5 million.            

With the help of a federal enhancement grant, the City of Grand Rapids reconstructed Plainfield Avenue and installed seven bio-retention islands from Leonard Street to Ann Street. Each island includes water retention areas, bio-retention plantings and pollution filtration systems. The project improves water quality by capturing and treating the first flush of rain water and reduces the flow that enters the storm sewer system. A video showing how the islands work, as well as the partnership between the city, state and local neighborhood association and businesses that made it happen, can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLYX6tp_6zg. The project also included bike lanes, center-left turn lanes, pedestrian refuge islands and safety training to create a walkable environment for students, transit riders and residents.                      

"I've never seen another project like this," said Grand Rapids Project Engineer Breese Stam. "How it functions, the social and environmental paybacks, and the public private partnerships that made it all come together. The national accolade is icing on the cake."

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