The US-23 Flex Route project is almost done but its overall success will depend on motorists according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The new Flex Route that runs between M-36 and Ann Arbor should be fully functional and open to traffic by mid-November. Michigan's first Flex Route will use a lane control system comprised of overhead signs, cameras, and electronic message boards mounted on large gantries. The system will manage freeway traffic more efficiently during peak hours by opening and closing the median shoulder to traffic.

M-DOT spokeswoman Kari Arend tells WHMI they’re still in the testing phase and it’s going well but motorists will be key to the new Flex Route system. Arend says they’re definitely in the home stretch of the project and need to get the word out about how the new system will operate once it’s turned on and help motorists learn now how to navigate it.

By installing the Flex Route along US-23 - meaning upgrading the shoulders to be used at key times of the day such as the morning or afternoon rush and during major traffic generating events – Arend says they can open up that shoulder and use it as a lane with the overhead signage that has been installed. She says it’s a more innovative, cheaper solution than actually adding a third lane in each direction along that corridor because doing so would require a 12-foot lane plus a shoulder, thus increasing the cost and footprint. She says the Flex Route solution allows M-DOT to simply upgrade the shoulder and only address congestion and safety when they need to along the corridor during times of increased traffic, adding that congestion is not 24-7 but rather at key times of the day.

Testing the new system and overhead electronic signs over live traffic along the corridor will continue and Arend says it will be beneficial for motorists and others who are curious to start learning the Flex Route system now and how it will operate before it officially opens. A brief video and other information related to the project is available through the link. (JM)