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Traffic was backed up Thursday afternoon while slowly driving through a flooded portion of BR-31 on the causeway by Whitehall’s Covell Park.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (M-DOT) has announced a plan to keep Business Route-31 causeway, a key link for motorists between the neighboring cities of Whitehall and Montague, open this winter despite threatening high water levels of White Lake and White River.

John Richard, communications director for M-DOT’s Grand Region in Grand Rapids, said Thursday that M-DOT representatives from the Muskegon Transportation Service Center, on Monday, shared the plan with officials from the cities of Whitehall and Montague, and the Muskegon County Road Commission (MCRC) which maintains BR-31 for the state.

Richard said the plan will narrow the roadway which passes over the White River bridge to two lanes, one each direction. Currently, three of the roadway’s four lanes are open. The lane closest to White Lake has been closed much of this year as a result of high lake and river levels which backed up a storm sewer and flooded the pavement, at times resulting in temporary road closures.

The closing of a second lane for the winter will allow space for holding plowed snow.

The plan will also include additional sandbagging to hold the lake and river waters back.

“We expect to do the work later this month,” Richard said. He said M-DOT devised the plan because it was concerned about an icy road surface this winter.

In late May, M-DOT worked with MCRC and the public works departments of the neighboring cities to protect the road from flooding. At that time water-filled coffer dams were installed on the lake side of the road to hold the water back, and the storm sewer was plugged to lessen the amount of water backing up onto the pavement. Pumps were installed on the Whitehall and Montague sides of the causeway to remove water from the pavement.

The causeway was flooded on Thursday as a result of rainfall of four to five inches since the previous week which resulted in the White River flooding more of Covell Park. Water was rushing onto BR-31 from the park’s drive and parking area.