Frustration grows over traffic backups in Houghton/Hancock

A traffic alert for Houghton/Hancock residents
Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 6:38 PM EDT

HOUGHTON/HANCOCK, Mich. (WLUC) - Long-term construction and lane closures have continued for months after the Portage Lake Lift Bridge project began.

This has made it no easy task to cross the bridge since July. Backups have spanned as far as Santori’s Corner to the north and as far as the MTU campus towards the south.

MDOT says people need to be patient during the work – but being patient isn’t written into the job description of a paramedic.

“We’ve had situation to where from the Houghton side we were backed up all the way almost by Maggie’s Massage place there,” said Patrick Boberg, CEO of Mercy EMS. “It’s caused us to utilize our lights and sirens more than we typically would.”

There are two northbound lanes open, for now, until work resumes on that side in three weeks. But, with only one southbound lane, things are backing up.

Traffic from Lake Linden causes uneven zippering by drivers. Southbound Hancock drivers are coming to complete stops to let them in. This further pushes back congestion of an already bottlenecked path.

“Any sort of delay like this, whether it be the traffic or the construction situation,” said Boberg. “Or just the lift bridge going up at peak hours or stuff like that can cost lives.”

However, MDOT says things may improve when work shifts to the outer lane.

“Once the inside lanes are open, you have that wider lane to travel in, and we hope that traffic moves more smoothly, and that minimizes some of those delays and backups,” said MDOT Communications Representative Dan Weingarten.

However, Ceric Lasentri, Superior Transport & Logistics owner says MDOT switching lanes won’t fix the damage its construction has done to local businesses.

“I’ve lost a lot of customers and thousands of dollars,” said Lasentri. “A lot of these people make time calls, I show up to the time calls. But, getting them across that bridge, it doesn’t matter if it’s a time call or not. They’re late for work because well, I’m stuck in traffic.”

As patience wears thin, MDOT says there are no other options for traffic mitigation at this time.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of November.

We will continue to follow the bridge work as construction continues.

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