TRAVERSE CITY — Traffic is swelling on local routes like Hammond and South Airport roads now that construction spurred lane closures on U.S. 31 in East Bay Township.
Drivers can try to plan whether they'd like to brave the closures or take an alternative route based on a website that tracks traffic delays on U.S. 31. Click here to go to the site.
Traffic sensors were installed on either end of the Michigan Department of Transportation project to help monitor traffic. Every two minutes the sensors report to a website how long it takes drivers to get through the construction area.
"It’s a nice new technology to help people in their planning," said MDOT spokesman James Lake.
The website brings users to a map of the construction area. Click on either impacted lane to see current speeds and how long it takes to get from one end of construction to the other. The lanes will turn red when it takes nine minutes or longer to pass through.
MDOT is working with Team Elmer's to rebuild U.S. 31 along the 1.5-mile stretch from Three Mile Road to Holiday Road. The work will reduce traffic from five lanes to one in each direction, started this week and is expected to continue through June 27, when the road will reopen. Any unfinished work will resume after Labor Day.
Lake estimated traffic could back up as much as 30 minutes during peak times. But the website means drivers wouldn't have to rely on his predictions.
The sensors were installed on U.S. 31 near Five Mile Road and Avenue C to track how long it takes a vehicle to get through the entire stretch, which Lake said typically takes about four minutes.
The sensors track Bluetooth-enabled devices and register when they cross one sensor and then the next.
"It just senses the presence of that signal," Lake said. "We don’t record any information and we don’t collect any information about the device itself other than that signal."
A planning group called the Traverse City Area Transportation and Land Use Study worked with Networks Northwest to set up a website to help Grand Traverse County residents and visitors navigate through the more than 20 road projects this summer. The website, GTRoadWork.com, shows a map of expected road construction and provides more details about each site when users scroll over it. The website also links to the MDOT traffic-tracking page and offers suggestions for how to minimize traffic problems.
"We hope if everybody can make a small sacrifice, the incremental effects of that will be significant and it will reduce congestion and delays," said TC-TALUS coordinator Matt Skeels.
The sensors are the only ones MDOT is currently using and cost about $10,000, Lake said. They were used last year during road construction in Iosco County.