Reconfigured M-21 intersection frustrates drivers

MDOT says traffic flow study may lead to more alterations

Fulton Street, Forest Hills Avenue, Crahen Avenue, M-21, Grand Rapids Township
The intersection of Fulton Street/M-21 and Forest Hill and Crahen avenues in Grand Rapids Township. (Nov. 1, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Some drivers are saying reconfiguration made a busy intersection east of Grand Rapids worse.

That project at Fulton Street/M-21 and Forest Hill Avenue SE in Grand Rapids Township began during the summer and the first major changes went into effect last week.

There’s a new road connecting drivers to Crahen Avenue NE. But there’s no left turn signals for north and southbound traffic on Crahen and Forest Hill, which has caused the most confusion for drivers.

Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman John Richard said the intersection may see more changes.

“This is a brand new intersection. We’re not sure how it’s going to operate until it’s completely done,” he said.

He said the project was designed to give drivers a quicker route to Crahen Avenue, which previously connected further west on M-21.

MDOT is monitoring traffic flow currently at the intersection. Whether left turn signals for north and southbound traffic will be added will depend on what results come out of those observations.

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But many drivers are frustrated as they try to figure how to maneuver the changes.

“It just seems like the traffic flow now with the new configuration is worse than it was before they reconfigured the road,” Grand Rapids Township resident Rebecca Cesario said.

“I just think that there needs to be a left turn signal there for the people coming off of Forest Hill because it’s extremely difficult now to get across,” said David Burns, the owner of the Alto Bar, who lives in the area.

But MDOT says the current layout is common.

“It’s not normal to start a new intersection with a protected left arrow. It’s standard to do it this way and then you evaluate it to see what you need,” Richard said.

The duration of green lights at the intersection is already being increased to help with congestion. A city of Grand Rapids employee was out Wednesday afternoon to increase that time by three seconds.

The city is contracted by MDOT to run and perform maintenance on the traffic lights. MDOT owns M-21 and the Kent County Road Commission oversees Crahen and Forest Hill.

24 Hour News 8 asked Cesario if she thought the traffic would flow with more ease if left turn signals were installed.

“I would hope so. I think it really depends on how they time the signal,” she said.

According to Kent County Sheriff’s Department crash data, there were a combined 19 crashes at the previous Forest Hill and Crahen intersections at Fulton in the last year. That’s not a high number compared to figures for other heavily-trafficked intersections.

MDOT says that by next week, you should see more paving, crosswalks and curbs along M-21 at Forest Hill and Crahen.