Big I-696 fix hits snag in Roseville

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Roseville — The Michigan Department of Transportation is considering how it can speed up the reconstruction of 10 miles of westbound Interstate 696 after Roseville officials refused to let agency crews work around the clock starting this spring.

In rejecting MDOT’s request recently, the Roseville City Council expressed concern about how overnight noise might affect residents. Instead, crews will be allowed to work 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

“In that section of area, we have a lot of citizens that live on both sides of I-696,” Roseville Mayor Pro Tem Jan Haggerty said. “If you were trying to sleep at night, and you’re listening to pounding and jackhammering all night, you’re not going to get any sleep.”

The issue adds some uncertainty to one of the biggest — if not the single biggest — road construction projects of the new year in Metro Detroit.

MDOT spokeswoman Diane Cross said the agency expects to ask Roseville for waivers to the ban on overnight work once it hires a contractor.

“Right now, we don’t have a schedule,” she said. “We expect that once we do that we’ll ask for an exception.”

The project to replace concrete along the stretch of freeway between Interstates 75 and 94 is expected to be completed by the end of the year, according to MDOT.

“We don’t want to close westbound (I-696) any longer,” Cross said. “We’ll do everything we can to avoid that happening. We have to get it done in ’18 because (if not) then we’d paralyze the whole community (because of 2019 construction at I-75 and I-696).”

It’s unclear what options MDOT has if it can’t persuade Roseville to allow at least some overnight work.

“There would be no need to have that sort of concern just yet,” Cross said. “We’ll cross any kind of bridge we need to cross.”

The freeway carries an estimated 150,000 vehicles daily, half heading west, according to state transportation officials.

MDOT's suggested freeway-to-freeway detour for westbound I-94 is northbound I-75 to westbound I-696. Eastbound I-94 traffic will also be detoured via northbound I-75 to westbound I-696.

According to MDOT, the bridges over the freeway are in good to fair condition due to rehabilitation and maintenance-type work over the years, but they will also receive maintenance work during the project.

MDOT officials met recently with Roseville City Manager Scott Adkins to discuss the possibility of requesting exceptions throughout the project.

“We had a very good, productive meeting,” he said. “We’re really looking at more definition of the type of work and time frame it needs to occur in. The City Council is looking out for the interest of the citizens.”

Adkins said the city also has interest in not seeing the project be delayed.

“Part of the issue, I think, is initially it was a blanket request looking at a waiver of all night-time restrictions,” he said. “That was a little too broad for us to make a decision without one-on-one dialogue. We’re planning on working together on both sides of the table on a compromise that provides some protections for our residents.”

Although the project extends through other communities to I-75, it’s a more sensitive issue for Roseville because of its residential population along the interstate. The city of Warren has a more commercial area along the freeway.

“There are too many people that have to sleep and get up in the morning,” Roseville Councilman Steven Wietecha said. “Go to the commercial area in the wee hours and come back starting at 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.”

Adkins said there could be some exceptions for night-time work made along the way. Those requests would come before the City Council.

“I think it would be based on the type of work they want to do,” he said. “Breaking of concrete, that’s the type of thing we’re wanting to protect our residents from.”

Roseville resident David Brandenberg said he’s grown accustomed to the traffic noise along I-696, but he’s not looking forward to construction noise. Brandenberg lives on Fernwood, a couple houses from the freeway’s service drive.

“I probably wouldn’t get much sleep,” he said. “I know that. When they replaced the bridge at Gratiot and the interstate, it was pretty noisy.”

But Sandra Bommarito, who lives on nearby La Salle Street, said she wouldn’t mind if MDOT worked on the freeway all night.

“Whatever they got to do to, get it done,” she said. “It’s fine by me.”

Resident Lena Hendrix has lived on 11 Mile for 11 years and said I-696 is part of her regular route. She said she can deal with the noise overnight if that means it won’t delay the project.

“I prefer they work 24/7,” she said. “Shut it down. Get it over with.”

Hendrix also realizes the downside of a project so close to residential areas.

“When it’s summertime, windows are open,” she said. “It’s going to force you to not have the windows open.”