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Detroit — It will take 20 years and nearly $3 billion dollars, but the reconstruction of a nearly seven mile stretch of Interstate 94 in downtown Detroit is slowly inching forward.

That was the message Monday morning from the Michigan Department of Transportation on the project that will stretch from Conner to I-96.

According to MDOT, that stretch of freeway was built between 1947 and 1959 and handles 140,000 to 160,000 vehicles per day.

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"That stretch of roadway has never been reconstructed," MDOT spokesman Rob Morosi said Monday. "It's been patched and paved but never reconstructed. For the safety of the public, it just can't go on this way any longer. That's why it has been moved to the top of our priority list."

The project would include the rebuilding of 67 bridges and six railroad overpasses, new drainage and utilities and changes to the I-94/M-10 (Lodge Freeway) and I-94/I-75 interchanges.

Additional changes would include the addition of a continuous I-94 service drive stretching from Trumbull to Conner, the elimination of left hand exit and entrance ramps, the elimination of short ramp acceleration lanes and the addition of landscaping, lighting and bicycle paths for new bridges.

According to MDOT, actual construction on the freeway itself would begin in 2019 and be completed in 2036.

MDOT has identified 10 bridges that require immediate replacement due to age and advanced deterioration. They include:

Trumbull, constructed in 1954 and listed in critical condition. To be rebuilt in 2016.

Gratiot, built in 1958. Listed in poor condition, to be rebuilt in 2017.

Mount Elliott, constructed in 1955 and in poor condition. Scheduled to be reconstructed in 2017.

Second, built in 1954, in poor condition. Rebuilding set for 2017.

Cass, built in 1955 and in poor condition. Rebuilding set for 2017.

Chene, built in 1956, poor condition and to be rebuilt in 2017.

Cadillac, built in 1957, poor condition. To be replaced in 2018.

Brush, built in 1955 and poor condition. To be replaced in 2018.

French, built in 1957 and in poor condition. To be reconstructed in 2018.

Concord, built in 1958 and in poor condition. To be replaced in 2018.

The federal government has also approved the widening of the freeway from three to four lanes in each direction.

According to MDOT senior project manager Terry A. Stepanski, the additional lanes would not widen the footprint of the freeway in downtown Detroit.

"Currently, the freeway has 45 degree slopes that come down to the roadway," Stepanski said. "We would excavate the dirt and erect barrier walls similar to those on I-96 and I-696. The freeway would basically become a channel. But we're still analyzing whether we should put in the additional lanes."

According to MDOT, building the freeway would, at this time, require the acquisition of 300 parcels of land, the majority of them small plots of land with no dwellings on them.

"Only 39 of the parcels have structures on them," Stepanski said. "Sixteen homes and 18 commercial displacements, but we are still looking at conceptual plans as we go along, so things may shift and change as we go along."

According to MDOT, if the project was to go into operational mode today, the projected cost would be $1.9 billion in 2013 dollars.

But with a 3 percent annual inflation rate over 20 years the estimated cost becomes $2.9 billion. Currently, the federal government would pay 81.5 percent of the project with Michigan paying 18.5 percent. The city of Detroit would pay an estimated 12.5 percent of the state's contribution.

"We are looking at ways where we may be able to increase the federal share, which would decrease the state share," MDOT metro region engineer Tony Kratofil said.

MDOT also plans on holding a number of public meetings on the proposed project in an effort to gather the ideas, thoughts and concerns of interested parties, especially those who drive, live or work within the I-94 corridor.

TGreenwood@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2023

MDOT to host open houses on future I-94 project

9-11 a.m. and 5:30-7:30 p.m., July 14

Cathedral Church of St. Paul (Barth Hall)

4800 Woodward Ave., Detroit

2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m., July 16

Wayne County Community College — Eastern Campus

5901 Conner Ave.

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