Governor Engler Announces New Grand Rapids Freeway Will Open Well Ahead of Schedule

Contact: Susan Shafer (517) 335-6397

September 17, 2001

Gov. John Engler announced today that Phase I of M-6 (Paul B. Henry Freeway) will be open for motorists at least six months early, provided weather conditions remain favorable.

Phase I, which connects I-96 at the Thornapple River to M-37, just south of Grand Rapids, was originally scheduled to open in the spring of 2002.

"I'm pleased to announce the next major step in transportation improvements for West Michigan is well ahead of schedule, and due to be completed in November, provided the weather cooperates, " said Governor Engler. "The early opening of the first phase of M-6 is a giant leap toward completing this much-needed freeway that will make travel around the Grand Rapids area much more efficient."

M-6 has been under development for approximately 20 years. Upon completion, it will connect I-96 on the southeast side of Grand Rapids to I-196 on the southwest side.

"We remain committed to completing this highly anticipated project as quickly as possible," added State Transportation Director Gregory J. Rosine. "Thanks to the support of Governor Engler and our legislators in Lansing and Washington, the MDOT staff and our industry partners, we can look forward to finishing ahead of schedule."

The new M-6, known locally as the South Beltline, is expected to cut travel times through southern Kent County in half. The freeway has been constructed with two 12-foot lanes in each direction, and an 80-foot wide grassy median. This median width allows for the addition of a third lane in each direction if needed for additional capacity in the future. Phases II and III, which will connect M-37, US-131 and I-196, are expected to be open to traffic by 2005.

This project is made possible through Build Michigan II and Build Michigan III state plans, and the TEA-21 federal grant.