A freeway devoid of cars is a common scene in post-apocalyptic or zombie movies. It’s not such a common sight just outside the bustling commercial district of Portland. Late Friday evening, workers from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) shut the freeway in preparation for the demolition of a long crumbling bridge that carries Cutler Road over I-96 just east of town.
While an MDOT spokesperson told the Beacon that the demolition would not begin until sunrise, demolition appeared nearly complete by 9 AM. Large portable work lights set on the demolition site and photos from other demolition watchers suggest that work actually began overnight. Sadly, rumors shared with the Beacon that the demolition would involve explosives turned out to be just that, according to officials with MDOT. Demolition was instead completed with large jack hammer devices attached to excavators. While not as satisfying as an explosion, they were none the less interesting to watch in action.
According to MDOT, Cutler Road will remain closed throughout the summer as the bridge is being completely replaced. Traffic traveling along Cutler Road is advised to detour via Grand River Avenue, Peake Road and Monroe Avenue. During demolition, traffic in both directions of I-96 will be detoured onto M-43, M-66 and Grand River Avenue. The same closure and detour is planned later in the project when beams for the new bridge are set in place.
Separately from the MDOT bridge and freeway improvements, Ionia County Road Commission plans to pave a portion of Cutler Road that is currently gravel. The paving project funded jointly by Portland and Danby Townships will run from Grand River Ave to the east end of the new bridge. According to the Ionia County Road Commission, this paving project will cost $226,000. Work is slated to begin in July and wrap up in October.
The Cutler Road Bridge project is projected to cost $3.9 million dollars and is part of a larger project of repairing and resurfacing of 9.5 miles of I-96 for an additional $5.5 million. The repaved portion of freeway will run from Sunfield Road to the Clinton County line. During most of the repaving, one lane closures are planned along with some traffic shifts. Some ramps on and off the freeway may also be closed intermittently during repaving work.
MDOT officials say that overall goal of this project is to, “improve the ride quality and extend the service life of the roadway and bridge.” Construction is planned to be completed by late October. Drivers can get up to date information on lane closures, detours and the progress of the project by visiting www.michigan.gov/drive