Downtown Muskegon gets long-awaited walkability makeover
Webster Avenue and Muskegon Avenue run parallel through the heart of downtown Muskegon. They were originally broad, encouraging traffic mobility. When Muskegon built nearby Shoreline Drive, which borders Muskegon Lake, traffic dropped on the two avenues. By 2013, the avenues were badly deteriorated and needlessly wide—promoting speeding traffic and putting pedestrians in the downtown area at risk.
Muskegon hired Prein&Newhof to re-design both avenues. The design added several improvements: traffic calming, non–motorized user improvements, drainage, sidewalk, and green space in the downtown area. To bring this to reality, P&N provided surveying, design, and construction engineering for two miles of complete road reconstruction in just five months.
“We’re restoring a neighborhood in many ways. Back in the day […] we cut highways through neighborhoods and cities because we were so focused on cars. It’s nice that we are at a period in our culture and this era that we are concentrating on people.”
Mayor Stephen Gawron, City of Muskegon
Increasing Downtown Walkability
The project implemented traffic calming and Complete Street design concepts: focusing on people of all ages and abilities and different modes of travel so people can move more freely between neighborhoods. Shared-lane markings and sidewalks made this possible along with new ‘bump-outs’ at street corners, which shorten the crosswalk almost by half, so walkers can cross the street more quickly and safely. Bump-outs provide safer on-street parking by giving drivers space as they enter and exit their vehicles. Four–way stop signs replaced traffic signals to improve the flow of foot traffic.
The project also considered the environment. Open-bottom catch basins reduce the amount of storm water that flows directly into Muskegon Lake by 2.5 million gallons a year. Narrower streets reduce impermeable surface area by 20 percent, allowing for more trees and grass, and further reducing storm runoff intensity. Jackson–Merkey Construction, the contractor hired to build the project, used crushed, recycled concrete as road gravel under the avenues’ new asphalt pavement.