LANSING - Traffic officials say theyre prepared for the closure of Interstate-496 through downtown at 6:01 p.m. today, when they begin diverting traffic throughout the city.
What is about to happen is huge, said Jerry Chilcutt, an employee of POCO Traffic Control Specialist in Detroit, as he unloaded barricades. The point being, people know theres construction, theyve been warned. Slow down and pay attention.
Chilcutt will help close the road after rush hour today. He unloaded orange and white barricades and road blocks from his truck last week near I-496 entry ramps.
City officials urge the 63,000 motorists who travel the freeway daily to carefully plan alternate routes for the next five months during the $42.5 million construction period. The eastern portion of I-496, from U.S.-127 to Pine Street in Lansing, will be shut down.
I hope all residents will do what they can to prepare and plan a little extra time to get to where they want to go, said Lansing Councilmember Harold Leeman.
The Michigan Department of Transportation will replace pavement between Pine Street east to U.S.-127, add a third lane between Pennsylvania Avenue and U.S.-127 and replace the bridges over the Grand River.
The east section of the road is scheduled to reopen in August and Lansing Mayor David Hollister hopes drivers will watch their speed and allow themselves plenty of time to reach their destinations.
What we really want people to do is be patient, Hollister said. The first couple of weeks will set the tone for the summer.
The road opened in 1963, allowing residents to smoothly and quickly maneuver around the downtown. Transportation officials say the temporary closing, more than 30 years later, is timely and necessary.
Most residents agree, but say theyll miss the road.
It will probably be an inconvenience, former Lansing resident Mary Quick said as she refueled at gas station just off the interstate. But its even more of a problem having to get tires realigned because of the roads.
This will be better than having to drive through all the potholes.
To spread traffic flow and reduce congestion officials ask motorists to stay on well-traveled roads. All bridges over I-496 will remain open.
For more information call the 24-hour hotline at 335-0496 or visit www.fix496.com.