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Officials hopeful work will resume quickly on stalled West Michigan construction projects

BY Thursday, September 27, 2018 02:48pm

Contractors and operating engineers have found a temporary solution to a labor dispute that’s affected more than 150 road construction projects around the state — and three in the greater Grand Rapids area.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday announced that a short-term solution to the labor impasse between trade group Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) and Operating Engineers Local 324 had been reached and that work would resume immediately.  

“This is great news, and I appreciate that both sides were able to see how important the work they do is to the safety and quality of life for all Michiganders,” Snyder said in a statement. “The vital work of getting Michigan’s roads repaired should not have stalled, but the important thing now is that projects will be getting back on track. A long-term solution to the contract negotiations still needs to be worked out, but that can and should be done after this construction season is completed.”

The work stoppages affected three Grand Rapids-area projects: construction on U.S.-131 between 10 Mile Road and 14 Mile Roads near Rockford, work on the on-ramp from Plainfield Avenue to I-96 in Grand Rapids, and the Zeeland Gateway Interchange project on Business Loop I-196 in Ottawa County

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will determine which the projects can and completed prior to the arrival of winter weather, according to Snyder’s office.

Jennifer Owens, president of Zeeland-based economic development group Lakeshore Advantage, said MDOT told her on Friday that work on the Zeeland Gateway project will resume on Monday, weather permitting.

The $7.6 million road project was a top priority for several large employers in the area, including Gentex Corp., Herman Miller Inc. and Zeeland Farm Services Inc., Owens said.

“My phone has been ringing off the hook from companies that contributed (to the project),” Owens said of the work stoppage

The impasse has gone on since Sept. 4, following a work-stoppage order by MITA, according to a report in The Detroit News.

A longer-term contract resolution between the two parties could come in the winter, once the road construction season ends, according to Snyder’s office.

“Our members are ready to get back on their machines and get these projects done across the state — and look forward to working again as soon as we can,” Ken Dombrow, president of OE324, said in a statement. “We still have issues to work out and will represent the best interests of our members throughout those negotiations, as we always have. We appreciate Gov. Snyder’s willingness to not take sides and to remain focused on finding a way to get the work done. The operating engineers of Michigan have an important job to do and we’re happy that now they can start doing it again.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to note that work on the Zeeland Gateway will resume on Monday, per Jennifer Owens at Lakeshore Advatage. 

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