NE OH to US 31 opening, SW MI

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Marc Fannin

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Aug 29, 2003, 7:55:24 PM8/29/03
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Well, things didn't go exactly as planned for my trip to see the new
US 31 freeway segment opening in Southwest Michigan (see the "Mich:
New US-31 Freeway in Berrien Co. OPEN" thread:
http://groups.google.com/groups?th=ae97295129b4bc9c
http://groups.google.com/groups?th=6c98ce77367fd880 ) More on that
below.

- Route out, 8/27 (OH-IN-MI): From Ohio 306 (I-90 Exit 193), I-90 WB
at (parts with Ohio 2 and I-80/Ohio Turnpike/Indiana Toll Road) to US
31 NB
- Route back, 8/28 (MI-OH): Old 31 SB to Bus US 31 (Niles MI) NB
(going SW) to various local routes to Niles-Buchanan Road EB (old
M-60, parallels US 12 to the north) to Bus US 12 (Niles) EB to one
block of Bus M-60 EB to old Bus US 12 EB (a block of 13th St then Main
St) to US 12 EB to US 127 SB (very brief) to US 223 SB to US 23/223 SB
to Ohio 184 EB to I-75 SB to I-280 SB to Ohio 2 EB to I-90 EB (parts
with Ohio 2) to Ohio 306
(- Route to PA, 8/26: Ohio 84 EB from Ashtabula to US 6N WB to I-90
WB, just to say I saw a keystone and an "M" diamond within 24 hours
:) )

- ARTIMIS http://www.artimis.org/system.php just starting to show up
in metro Cleveland in a few scattered ramp signs. (See
http://www.roadfan.com/mtrfaq.html#a1031 )

- Anti-roadgeek?: Paintball hits on a few BGSs on I-90 west of I-71 in
Cleveland.

- No specific progress at the future Ohio Turnpike/Ohio 58 interchange
just west of the I-80/90 merge, though it looked like more land was
cleared since the last time I saw it.

- The Turnpike is now compromising with its services signs: Before it
wouldn't list them, instead instructing drivers to get info at the
respective plaza; now, at least WB at US 250 and US 20 (Toledo), it
does have logo signs listed just like on non-tolled freeways, but it
still says to get directions at the plazas.

- The Turnpike access road/US 250 bridge looks like a railroad
overpass; recently, the railroad overpass immediately north has been
rebuilt to look like a highway overpass. :)

- BlackoutOT1: The Turnpike meets US 250 near Milan, birthplace of
Thomas Edison, inventor of the incandescent light bulb.
- BlackoutOT2: The power line paralleling the Turnpike to the north at
US 250 and for a few miles westward, which had one side with no wires
but room for them, was in the process of getting the wires for that
side as I was passing through. Gee, I wonder what brought that on....

- On the Indiana Toll Road at I-69, no more mentions at all of US 27,
not even marker shadows on the BGSs that I could see, with sign at the
overpass http://www.roadfan.com/intr69op.jpg having greenout over the
middle line.

- Still no mention of CR 17/M-217 on the Toll Road at Exit 96 or IN
331 or 23 at Exit 83.

- The new pedestrian tunnels under the Grape Road underpass
http://www.wndu.com/news/122002/news_17996.php just east of the IN 23
overpass are not recognizable as such (you'd have to know what they
were ahead of time).

- OK, so I wrote to the spokeswoman for the Michigan DOT Southwest
Region so I could find out the ribbon cutting time/date/place for the
new US 31 freeway segment between Exits 15 (Old 31/extended M-139) and
24 (Napier Ave just south of I-94), and she courteously replied 2:30
pm on August 27 at the St. Joseph River crossing NB just north of Exit
15. Then Eric Meier posted here that one of the VMSs stated a 6 pm
time, confirmed by local newspapers, so I thought "Ah, they've pushed
it later". NO. After talking to people and watching the news that
night and early the next day, I realized 6 pm was the OPENING time.
THE RIBBON-CUTTING TIME WAS NEVER ANYTHING BUT 2:30. >:( So when I
thought I was on schedule, I was actually three-and-a-half hours
behind. So much for getting a piece of ribbon for a scrapbook....In
the process of looking around for officials, I travelled the entire
length of freeway, turned left on Napier, went to I-94 and turned
around and retraced my steps back to Berrien Springs. While I was a
bit preoccupied to notice much at the time, I did notice (1) By 6:00
the freeway was crowded enough that it looked like it had been open
for weeks, not hours; (2) This section looks very similar to the last
one that opened in 1992 (Exits 7 to 15); and (3) There are still
"[LEFT ARROW]/ONLY" lane marking shadows NB just before the Old
31/M-139 overpass, a remnant of when there was a signalized
intersection before the ramps and bridge were built there 1997-1999.
I then decided to stay with relatives near Benton Harbor, so I took
the "old route" north, which should have been signed as M-139, and
contrary to what Chris Bessert said, it was, but only at the first two
intersections, and ONLY NB. Yes, at the Hinchman and Linco Road
intersections, if you looked north, you saw "[NORTH]/<M-139>", and if
you looked south, you saw "[SOUTH]/{US 31}". Otherwise, signage was
unchanged, so as soon as the freeway opened, there were two US 31's.

- At 9:30 the next morning, after doing some local roadgeeking
(including discovering an M-less M-63 shield), I met up with Brian
Reynolds, Dan Garnell, Adrian Leskiw, a roadgeek friend from junior
high, and his brother (the latter of whom had a few US 31 photos from
a few days before) at Bob Evans at I-94 Exit 29 (Pipestone Road). I
had not much to offer, so I showed mostly NE Ohio newspapers from
right after the big August 14 blackout. :) I did happen to find the
big section on US 31 in the local paper from the Sunday before the
opening, which had a non-online list of quotes from earlier editions
of the paper, back to the 1960s, stating the freeway would be open in
1972, then 1975, then 1977, etc., etc. Took up almost a whole
column....

- After the meeting, I travelled the freeway one last time, then
headed down Old 31 (still state-maintained), going through a temporary
1+ mile one-lane section (long wait) to Business 31 north of Niles,
where I proceeded southwest, noting that it was signed reasonably
well, except at and near the US 31 Exit 7 ramps. Then I visited one
of my old hometowns (Buchanan) and embarked on the return trip.

- The M6-7 arrow marker
http://members.aol.com/rmoeuradot/200x200/mark/M6-7.gif is one of the
weirdest IMO. (One was under the US 12 shield on old Business 12 at
the US 12/M-60 interchange)

- I took the US 12/US 223 route back (1) because I wanted to take it
easy on my car, as on the way out I hardly stopped, (2) to avoid
tolls, (3) to actually visit for the first time Hillsdale and Lenawee
Counties (even though I only grew up four counties west), and (4) to
simply go back a different way I came and a way I'd never been for the
most part. Along the way I clinched US 223 (prior to this I had only
been on the part with US 23 - more on that below). Spending all that
time in MDOT territory was enlightening, especially since I usually
only see one county of it.

- Michigan likes to sign things a lot, as I had forgotten. MDOT has
signs for nearby lakes, ones that the road doesn't cross but simply
gets within sight of, and there were white-on-green historical marker
directional signs anytime US 12 got near one. (I like the
thoroughness.) Also, there were a few Upper Peninsula-style SGS
"JUNCTION" signs in a few places.

- US 12 cutout found, but not along the roadway itself. (Photo to
come)

- Michigan still has a bunch of protected left turns, some without the
red signal flashing (IOW stop then turn left when clear). Made me
appreciate doghouse-riddled Ohio.

- Old closed bridge on Old US 112 (that was the street's actual name)
west of IIRC Coldwater.

- Heading east from the western US 12/M-49 intersection was only a US
12 assembly. Heading west from the eastern US 12/M-49 intersection
was only an M-49 assembly. [Shrug]

- US 223 has two places where the road widens (with advance signage)
to four lanes, but these aren't hilly sections between two flat
sections, but just the opposite....

- Very cool VERY OLD center-mounted railroad crossing signals right
off US 223 in "downtown" Blissfield.

- US 223 approaching US 23 has two-way signs and signs saying not to
drive on the shoulder (and pointing to it, as if no one knew where it
was). Guess this has been a problem.

- No indication to turn south on US 23 to continue on US 223. Guess
Michigan is trying to underplay the overlap.

- Toledo signals look adequate (all 12" lenses) but very worn. And
5-lens-high left-turn signals are still common. (Also saw a "DONT
WALK" which flashed through the yellow phase.)

- Signs for I-280 on I-75 trailblazing the Ohio Turnpike can't decide
whether to have I-80/90 shields, the Turnpike logo, or the text word
"TURNPIKE".

- Toledo I-280 drawbridge replacement http://www.lookuptoledo.org/ -
WOW. You don't realize how massive the project is until you're
underneath it. Meanwhile, existing I-280 zigzags about 15-20 times in
a tight corridor around the under-construction supports. And
temporary BGSs are practically non-existent.

- Toledo seems much farther along in the ARTIMIS program (see above).

- Stray Interstate-style "MILE 9" along (mostly) 2-lane Ohio 2 in
Ottawa County.

I know I've forgotten something, but oh, well, here goes....

________________________________________________________________________
Marc Fannin|musx...@kent.edu or @hotmail.com| http://www.roadfan.com/

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