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Major US-131 project starts this week


MDOT plans to reconstruct the stretch of US131 from south of 14 Mile to two miles north of where it crosses over White Creek Ave.

MDOT plans to reconstruct the stretch of US131 from south of 14 Mile to two miles north of where it crosses over White Creek Ave.

The road project many residents have hoped for finally begins this Thursday, April 13.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will invest $22 million to reconstruct northbound and southbound US-131 between 14 Mile Road and White Creek Avenue (just north of 17 Mile Road). Work also includes repairing three bridges, culvert and drainage improvements, new signs, and ramp reconstruction at 14 Mile Road and 17 Mile Road.

Two lanes of traffic will be maintained in each direction with the use of temporary crossovers and a split-merge traffic shift. This configuration is scheduled to go into effect April 21. Intermittent ramp and lane closures will be used throughout the project.

Ramp closures for ramp reconstruction will be allowed for a maximum of 14 calendar days per ramp. Ramps to be reconstructed include all 17 Mile Rd ramps, northbound 14 Mile Rd on ramp, and southbound 14 Mile Rd off ramp.

Visit www.Michigan.gov/drive for updates and sign up to receive Kent County traffic notices via text or email.

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MDOT to redo US131 between 14 and 17 Mile 


 

MDOT plans to reconstruct the stretch of US131 from south of 14 Mile to two miles north of where it crosses over White Creek Ave.

MDOT plans to reconstruct the stretch of US131 from south of 14 Mile to two miles north of where it crosses over White Creek Ave.

Public meeting March 16 at Cedar Springs High School 4-6 p.m.

By Judy Reed

Are you tired of driving over the rough spots on US131 between 14 Mile and 17 Mile Road and wondering (probably for the millionth time) when they are going to fix this road? You won’t have to wonder much longer.

The Michigan Department of Transportation announced details on Friday, March 3, of their plans to reconstruct that stretch of highway. The project will begin on April 15 and should be open to traffic on November 5.

There will be a public informational meeting about the project at Cedar Springs High School, 204 E. Muskegon, in the cafeteria, on Thursday, March 16, from 4-6 p.m.

According to John Richard, spokesperson for MDOT, the construction influence area will begin with warning signs on US131 two miles south of 14 Mile and continue to two miles north of where it crosses over White Creek Avenue. The influence area will also include one mile east and west of intersection roads and ramps.

The work will include hot mix asphalt (HMA) reconstruction and rehabilitation of three bridges, including concrete curb, gutter and culvert, drainage, signing and pavement markings.

Traffic impact

Two lanes of traffic will be maintained in each direction on US-131 with the use of temporary crossovers and a split-merge traffic shift. Southbound US-131 will have a single lane closure while maintaining one lane of traffic for one week to place top course of HMA. Northbound US-131 will have a single lane closure while maintaining one lane of traffic for one week to place top course of HMA.

Ramp closures

Ramp closures for ramp reconstruction will be allowed for a maximum of 14 calendar days per ramp. Ramps to be reconstructed include all 17 Mile Rd ramps, northbound 14 Mile Rd on ramp, and southbound 14 Mile Rd off ramp.

Detours when ramps are closed:  

  • 17 Mile NB US-131 off ramp: drivers will get off at 14 Mile instead and take White Creek Ave. north.
  • 17 Mile NB US-131 on ramp: Drivers will get on SB US-131 instead and get off at 14 Mile Rd, then back on to NB US-131.
  • 17 Mile SB US-131 on ramp: drivers will take White Creek Ave to 14 Mile Rd. and get on SB US-131.
  • 17 Mile SB US-131 off ramp: drivers will get off at 14 Mile Rd and back on to NB US-131.
  • 14 Mile Rd NB US-131 on ramp: drivers will take White Creek Ave to 17 Mile Rd. and get on NB US-131.
  • 14 Mile Rd SB US-131 off ramp: drivers will get off at 17 Mile Rd. and take Algoma Ave. to 14 Mile.
  • When SB US-131 outside lane is under construction, the 17 Mile Rd off ramp, 17 Mile Rd on ramp and 14 Mile off ramps will each be closed for 14 days. A pre-detour will utilize 22 Mile Rd to White Creek Ave to 14 Mile Rd.
  • When NB US-131 outside lane is under construction, 14 Mile Rd on ramp, 17 Mile Rd off ramp and 17 Mile on ramps will each be closed for 14 days. A pre-detour will utilize 14 Mile Rd to White Creek Ave to 22 Mile Rd. That detour could change to Algoma.

Traffic Restrictions:

  • 14 Mile on ramp and 17 mile on ramp cannot be closed at the same time
  • 17 mile on ramp and 17 mile off ramp cannot be closed at the same time

Shoulder closures

14 Mile Rd and 17 Mile Rd will have lane/shoulder closures but will maintain two-way traffic at all times with the exception for the paving of ramp terminals, when traffic will be maintained using traffic regulators.

When the bridge over White Creek Avenue is being worked on, it will require access to the bridge from down below, so White Creek Ave will have one lane maintained for two-way traffic by utilizing a temporary signal. Bridge work will include substructure reinforcements, joint replacement on the bridge deck and painting.

Be sure to attend the meeting at the high school on March 16 and get your questions answered.

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New left turn signals at 17 Mile and White Creek


 

This photo shows a new left-hand turn signal for westbound traffic at 17 Mile and White Creek. There is also a signal on the other side for eastbound traffic turning left. Photo by J. Reed.

This photo shows a new left-hand turn signal for westbound traffic at 17 Mile and White Creek. There is also a signal on the other side for eastbound traffic turning left. Photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

Kent County recently installed two new traffic signals at White Creek and 17 Mile Road that will hopefully cut down on crashes in that intersection. Drivers that travel eastbound on 17 Mile and wish to turn left (north) on White Creek and those traveling westbound who wish to turn left (south) on White Creek now have a left-hand turn signal to help time their turn.

“Our Traffic and Safety Division had received a number of concerns regarding the intersection and had been monitoring the location,” explained Maura Lamoreaux, communications spokesman for the Kent County Road Commission. “Integral to the decision to install the signal was data that included the types of crashes occurring and the volume of traffic at the intersection, particularly the volume of eastbound left turns coupled with the lack of gaps in opposing westbound traffic.”

Lamoreaux said that the most recent 24-hour count showed approximately 19,000 vehicles travel through that intersection every day.

People might also be happy to know that another busy intersection in the area will get a stop and go signal later this year. The Michigan Department of Transportation will put in the signal at M-57 (14 Mile) and Myers Lake Avenue. “The traffic signal study showed significant delays on Myers Lake Rd, high enough traffic volumes, and a lack of gaps in the M-57 traffic stream,” explained John Richard, with MDOT. He said the signal will be installed sometime in their 2017 fiscal year, which means by or before September 30, 2017.

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Mild winters are harsh on Michigan roads 


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Unseasonably warm temperatures provide a nice break from Michigan’s long winter. But they also offer another break that’s not so nice. With each sustained warm-up, the roads that have been frozen begin to thaw from the surface downward, and the melting snow and ice saturate the ground. The roadbed, softened by trapped moisture beneath the pavement, is more susceptible to damage during every significant thaw. A sustained thaw typically happens only once a year in the spring but not this year. Continuous temperatures above and below freezing have created several freeze-thaw cycles, which also create potholes.

“It’s normal to get a few days throughout the winter that are warmer than usual, but this year has been unusually sporadic,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “Extreme temperature fluctuations create many issues for road maintenance.”

Potholes are most prevalent during freeze/thaw cycles, when water penetrates the pavement surface and refreezes, pushing the pavement up. Vehicles then push the pavement back down, breaking it and starting a pothole.

“The quicker we know about where potholes are forming, the sooner we can get them patched,” added Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Engineer of Operations Mark Geib. “Patching them won’t last, but will help get us through until warmer temperatures are sustained.”

If you spot a pothole on an I-, US- or M-route, you can report it to the MDOT Pothole Hotline at 888-296-4546, by going online to MDOT’s “Report a Pothole” website at https://goo.gl/x6Rgo9 or by calling your local MDOT Transportation Service Center (TSC) or region office.

N-PotholesMDOT is not responsible for County or city/village roads. If you see a pothole on a county road that you’d like to have fixed, complete the online “Report an Issue” form at http://www.kentcountyroads.net/report-an-issue or call KCRC at 616-242-6950.

For potholes on local city/village roads, call the office of the city or village where you reside. In the City of Cedar Springs call the DPW at 696-1330. In the Village of Sand Lake, call 636-8854.

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Reality Check


car-mdot-reality-checkMyth #8: MDOT is replacing perfectly good signs.

Reality: MDOT replaces signs and posts regularly to keep them visible at night and current with federal safety guidelines.

MDOT regularly replaces signs along our highway corridors as part of a 100 percent federally funded statewide program, on a rotation about every 15 years. This is to ensure these signs are visible both day and night and meet federal standards.

Modern road signs have a reflective surface directing lights from a vehicle’s headlights back to the driver’s eyes. This allows drivers to see and read signs much sooner than those without this feature. By 2030, one in five drivers will be 65 or older. While a 65-year-old needs eight times the light to see as a 25-year-old does, bright, highly reflective signs help drivers of all ages see, and react, more quickly to signs’ information.

The reflective surface degrades over time due to weather, sun exposure, or other damage. When this happens, the signs become difficult to see and read at night. While only 25 percent of all travel occurs at night, about half of all traffic fatalities happen after dark. It’s the same reason we regularly repaint pavement markings.

As with the signs themselves, sign posts must meet state and federal safety standards, and degrade over time. When we replace the signs, we usually replace the posts at the same time to make sure they’ll break away as they should if struck by a vehicle. Replacing the signs and posts together is more cost-effective than doing it separately.

Looks can be deceiving, and just because a sign looks good in broad daylight doesn’t mean it’s as visible once the sun goes down. MDOT’s sign replacement program is designed to make sure that when motorists need the information highway signs provide, they can find it – day or night.

For more on this transportation myth, visit www.michigan.gov/realitycheck.

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Final Adopt-A-Highway cleanup of year starts Saturday


car-final-adopt-a-highway1

It’s that time again: a chill is in the air, leaves are beginning to turn, and crews are getting ready for the year’s last Adopt-A-Highway pickup along state roadways. Participants in the popular Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) program will be picking up litter along highway roadsides from Saturday, Sept. 24, through Sunday, Oct. 2.

“We’d like to thank our thousands of Adopt-A-Highway crews for their dedication and hard work to help keep Michigan roadsides clean,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “Every year, these volunteers provide a financial boost for MDOT and our entire state. Their service is greatly appreciated.”

car-final-adopt-a-highway2There are three scheduled Adopt-A-Highway pickups each year: one each in the spring, summer and fall. Michigan volunteers have been participating in the program since 1990. Every year, Adopt-A-Highway crews collect about 70,000 bags of trash. The volunteer efforts of nearly 3,200 Adopt-A-Highway groups generate about $5 million annually in value for state taxpayers.

During the pickup period, motorists should be on the lookout for volunteers wearing high-visibility, yellow-green safety vests. MDOT provides free vests and trash bags, and arranges to haul away the trash.
Volunteers include members of civic groups, businesses and families. Crew members have to be at least 12 years old and each group must number at least three people.

Sections of highway are still available for adoption. Interested groups should check the MDOT Adopt-A-Highway website at www.michigan.gov/adoptahighway for more information and the name of their county’s coordinator, who can specify available roadsides. Groups are asked to adopt a section of highway for at least two years; there is no fee to participate. Adopt-A-Highway volunteer groups are recognized with signs bearing a group’s name posted along stretches of adopted highway.

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Year’s second Adopt-A-Highway cleanup on the way


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Motorists should be on the lookout beginning Saturday as thousands of Adopt-A-Highway volunteers head back to state roadways to pick up litter. Participants in the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) program will clean highway roadsides from July 16 to 24 during the second of three scheduled pickups this year.

“We have tremendous appreciation for the Adopt-A-Highway volunteers and their dedication to keeping Michigan roadsides clean,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “Please be alert during the litter pickup period and drive cautiously when you see these crews at work.”

N-Adopt-a-highway2Every year, dedicated Adopt-A-Highway volunteers collect about 70,000 bags of trash, generating about a $5 million value annually for state taxpayers. The popular program began in 1990 and has grown to involve nearly 3,000 groups cleaning 6,400 miles of highway.

Getting involved in the program is straightforward. Volunteers include members of civic groups, businesses and families. Crew members have to be at least 12 years old and each group must include at least three people. Groups are asked to adopt a section of highway for at least two years. There is no fee to participate. Adopt-A-Highway signs bearing group names are posted along the stretches of adopted highway.

When working in a highway right of way, Adopt-A-Highway volunteers wear high-visibility, yellow-green safety vests required by federal regulations. MDOT provides free vests and trash bags, and arranges to haul away the trash.

Sections of highway are still available for adoption. Interested groups can get more information at www.michigan.gov/adoptahighway.

The year’s final Adopt-A-Highway pickup is scheduled for the fall, from Sept. 24 to Oct. 2.

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Birds and bridges: Falcons banded at two Upper Peninsula sites


 

As an angry adult falcon swoops in, from left, DNR wildlife technicians Caleb Eckloff and Brad Johnson and DNR biologist John Depue work to remove peregrine falcon chicks from a nest box on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge on June 17. (MDOT photo)

As an angry adult falcon swoops in, from left, DNR wildlife technicians Caleb Eckloff and Brad Johnson and DNR biologist John Depue work to remove peregrine falcon chicks from a nest box on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge on June 17. (MDOT photo)

It’s been a good season for Upper Peninsula bridges and their resident raptors, with peregrine falcons at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge successfully hatching three chicks and the Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock seeing four hatchlings this spring.

At the Portage Lake Lift Bridge, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) installed two nest boxes in 2012, one each on the north and south bridge towers. A pair of falcons discovered the nesting site the next spring and has raised a total of 10 chicks there.

MDOT took precautions to shield the lift bridge nesting boxes from construction work—an $8.4 million upgrade and preventive maintenance project started in late 2014 and just wrapped up this spring. Screens were placed to keep the falcons from seeing workers in the bridge machinery rooms and efforts were made to minimize disturbances in the nest area. During construction, a webcam, viewable at http://pasty.com/nestbox.html, was also installed in cooperation with the Copper Country Audubon Society to allow people to watch nesting activity.

As DNR wildlife technician Caleb Eckloff looks on, DNR wildlife technician Brad Johnson holds a peregrine falcon chick during the banding process at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge on June 17. (MDOT photo)

As DNR wildlife technician Caleb Eckloff looks on, DNR wildlife technician Brad Johnson holds a peregrine falcon chick during the banding process at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge on June 17. (MDOT photo)

On the eastern end of the U.P., Karl Hansen, bridge engineer for the International Bridge Administration (IBA), reported that a pair of peregrine falcons successfully nested atop the bridge between the U.S. and Canada this spring, hatching three chicks.

The hatching is the culmination of an ongoing commitment by the IBA. Nest boxes for the peregrines have been installed since 2010 on both the U.S. and Canadian arches. Peregrines have been active at the International Bridge since 1999 but, before the nest boxes were installed, the falcons laid their eggs in gravel on the exposed pier top and there were unfortunate instances of eggs and chicks being blown off.

The same pair of adults has been returning to the U.S. side nest each year but, so far, none have taken up residence in the nest box at the Canadian arch. Hansen has counted 20 chicks hatched out of the nest boxes since they were installed.

The chicks at the Lift Bridge were banded by a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) team on June 17, while the International Bridge birds were banded by a team on June 20. According to DNR wildlife biologist Kristie Sitar, color-coded bands attached to the legs of young birds allow scientists to track the movements, reproductive behavior and population growth of the falcons. DNR biologists have yet to confirm that birds banded at either bridge have gone on to breed elsewhere, but that’s not unusual.

“There are no records of where fledged birds from (the IBA) site have gone but that doesn’t mean they aren’t breeding someplace,” Sitar said of the IBA birds. “Oftentimes, birds aren’t uniquely identified at new sites for a few years.”

In addition to their leg bands, the peregrine chicks received names. Names are typically assigned by DNR and bridge staff involved in the banding. At the IBA, names were chosen to honor the struggles of current and former colleagues battling cancer. The males were called Jim and Cameron, while the lone female was named Cheryn. At the Lift Bridge, DNR and bridge staff chose to name the females Lynn and Spunky, while the males were dubbed Edgar and Scottie. The new peregrines at both bridges should be ready to leave the nest in another few weeks.

The peregrine falcon has been removed from the federal endangered species list, but is listed as an endangered species in Michigan, protected by state and federal law. Peregrines have adapted to city habitats, nesting on tall buildings, smokestacks and bridges around the world. Studies have found the birds in this region tend not to nest in the same area where they were hatched, but spread out across the Midwest.

Every nesting site is special. In 2015, there were only 34 active nest sites in the entire state, with 29 of them on artificial structures. Only two of the five natural sites were accessible for banding birds this year, so having boxes on accessible structures like the Lift Bridge and International Bridge helps the DNR follow the raptor’s comeback.

High-speed hunters capable of flying at 200 mph, the peregrines may help keep populations of nuisance pigeons under control. While researchers have found pigeons make up a relatively small portion of the falcon diet, the dangerous predators may play a role in frightening them away from bridges. Keeping pigeons away is seen as potentially saving MDOT and the IBA maintenance money down the line, as pigeon droppings can damage paint on metal bridge surfaces.

 

Fast facts:

  • A pair of peregrine falcons has successfully nested on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge again this year after completion of a major bridge repair project.
  • Another pair of the endangered falcons successfully nested on the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge, where the birds have been returning for years.
  • The DNR banded four chicks at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge and three at the International Bridge.

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MDOT improves safety for older drivers


 

A recent study by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Western Michigan University shows new signs and signals make roads safer for older drivers. Michigan’s aging population has resulted in an increase in the number of older drivers involved in traffic crashes. The number of drivers age 65 and older involved in crashes in Michigan increased by 2.4 percent from 2004 to 2013, even as the number of all drivers involved in crashes dropped by 23.8 percent during the same period.

In 2004, MDOT began implementing engineering countermeasures addressing the needs of older drivers.

• The use of Clearview font on guide signs, which improve legibility by minimizing blurring around the edges of the letters.

• The use of fluorescent yellow sheeting, a new, brighter color for warning signs that is more visible.

• Box span signal configuration, in which traffic signals are suspended along all four sides of an intersection, to improving safety and visibility.

• Pedestrian countdown signals, which show the number of seconds remaining to safely cross the roadway. These signals help pedestrians decide whether to start crossing an intersection or adjust their walking speed.

• Arrow-per-lane signing, which clarifies navigation paths with a directional arrow above each limited access highway lane.

Kimberly Lariviere, MDOT Strategic Highway Safety engineer, is the project manager.

“The benefit-cost ratio for all of these previously used devices was very good, and some were exceptional,” Lariviere said. “This research confirms that the improvements MDOT started making 11 years ago for older drivers were wise investments that we should continue implementing.”

The improvements were reviewed in two ways. Researchers surveyed 1,590 Michigan drivers and pedestrians in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Lansing to learn their perceptions of the improvements. Historical crash data, before and after implementation, also was analyzed to determine the impacts of the improvements on safety.

The surveys revealed drivers preferred the improvements over the traditional alternatives. Data analysis showed all five improvements offered cost-effective ways to reduce crash rates among all drivers, specifically among older drivers.

This project confirms that all five of the improvements studied provided good safety benefits for the amount of money invested, and several produced exceptional benefit-cost ratios. Researchers recommend continuing to install them in appropriate locations.

More details are available in the MDOT research spotlight report “Evaluation of Michigan’s Engineering Improvements for Older Drivers” online. www.michigan.gov/documents/mdot/RC1636_Spotlight_506683_7.pdf

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Winter Comes to Michigan


Rediscovered film a blast from the past


Scenes of winter fun from the “Winter Comes to Michigan” film. Elaborate toboggan runs and outdoor public skating rinks were popular winter pastimes once reliable winter travel made it possible for Michiganders to get out and enjoy them. (MDOT photos)

Scenes of winter fun from the “Winter Comes to Michigan” film. Elaborate toboggan runs and outdoor public skating rinks were popular winter pastimes once reliable winter travel made it possible for Michiganders to get out and enjoy them. (MDOT photos)

toboggan run

toboggan run

from MDOT

After spending decades in a basement in the eastern Upper Peninsula, a 1930s-era newsreel from the Michigan State Highway Department has resurfaced to remind us of the challenges—and the fun—of winters past.

The film, “Winter Comes to Michigan,” created by the precursor agency to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), gives us a black-and-white window to the era when Murray Van Wagoner, a future Michigan governor, ran the department from 1933-1940.

A scene from Suicide Hill ski jump in Ishpeming from the “Winter Comes to Michigan” film. (MDOT photos)

A scene from Suicide Hill ski jump in Ishpeming from the “Winter Comes to Michigan” film. (MDOT photos)

The film was one of several reels found by sisters Nancy and Barbara Sleeper of Newberry. They discovered them in their mother’s basement and wanted to preserve them as part of their family heritage.

“Our grandfather, Sanborn Sleeper, was the superintendent of the Luce County Road Commission from 1928 until sometime around World War II,” Nancy Sleeper said. She believes he acquired the films during that period.

Sanborn Sleeper was instrumental in bringing the Snogo, an early snow blower, to Michigan, Nancy said. Some of the reels featured film of the Snogo equipment being tested near Newberry.

“We saw the ‘Winter Comes to Michigan’ film and thought, gee, this is some great footage of those old-time busy highways,” Nancy said. “They were so interesting, we couldn’t see just holding onto them.”

So the Sleeper family donated the original reels to MDOT. They’ve now been digitized, restored and uploaded to the department’s YouTube channel at  https://youtu.be/NH20lpFu_3Q

The film’s “man against nature” theme focuses on the challenge—as real today as it was then—of keeping roads open during Michigan’s harsh winters.

“Winter maintenance is a gigantic task for heroic men and efficient machines,” says the film’s foreword. “It is a public service fraught with grave responsibilities. OUR HIGHWAYS MUST BE KEPT OPEN!”

Winter travel before modern highways was not an easy ride. The season was something to be survived, not enjoyed.

“Yes, winter is a season of unusual beauty,” intones the narrator. “Only a brief score of years ago, however, the idyll of winter brought only the sad realization of a long season of isolation.”

Modern highways and winter snow removal equipment changed all that. With the advent of reliable winter maintenance, the film suggests, the state’s growing highway system opened up winter as a playground for sports, recreation and tourism.

The film shows residents enjoying outdoor winter fun at locations such as Ishpeming’s Suicide Hill ski jump, fledgling downhill ski areas, outdoor public ice skating rinks and an elaborate toboggan run. Filmmaker and author Bill Jamerson, whose documentaries have explored winter sports and other aspects of state history for Michigan Public Television, said many of the film locations were probably in the U.P., while the toboggan run scene was probably filmed at a winter sports park in Grayling.

Most of these winter parks started in the late 1920s, Jamerson said. His “Winter Wonderland” documentary looked at the golden age of winter recreation from the 1930s through the 1960s, made possible via better automobiles and snow removal equipment.

“Winter driving was hazardous, so this film goes a long way in showing that progress had been made,” Jamerson said. “Remember, up until WWII, snow trains brought people up to the Grayling winter sports park from Detroit. So, rail was considered the safe option for most people. Trains were also bringing people from Chicago and Milwaukee up into Iron Mountain.”

Transportation, even in this period before the Mackinac Bridge, helped boost the state’s winter tourism by allowing safe and reliable winter travel. It also may have helped end this golden age. When air travel became routine, more and more Midwesterners headed to the higher slopes and newer resorts in the west.

“I think an important thing these films do is remind us who we are,” Jamerson said. “For example, there once was a day when skating rinks were overflowing with families. It could happen again!”

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