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First the pain, then the gain.

A heavily traveled stretch of westbound Interstate 696 between I-94 and I-75 will be shut down to traffic next Friday through November for concrete replacement.

The news comes about six months after Michigan Department of Transportation officials said they planned to shut the 10-mile stretch of the freeway for the $90 million overhaul.

An estimated 150,000 vehicles travel the stretch of I-696 daily.

“Unfortunately, closing a freeway is very difficult for commuters due to the inconvenience, extra time required to detour, etc. but most drivers would agree the freeway has been in bad shape for a while and better to close the road to repair it than close the road because it’s unusable,” MDOT spokeswoman Diane Cross said in an email Friday.

MDOT will begin the project by closing the eastbound and westbound I-94 ramps to the freeway at 9 p.m. Friday. All access ramps to I-696 will be closed by 5 a.m. Saturday, officials said.

As crews work on the freeway, all of I-696’s westbound lanes will be closed between I-94 and I-75. The eastbound side is slated to remain open.

Officials also said preliminary work on the project has already begun, and the eastbound and westbound I-696 service drives between Dequindre and I-94 will have one lane closed from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. through Monday.

Cross said work will be done around the clock. But certain types of work, such as concrete breaking, will not be done in the overnight hours, she said.

Betty Stanichuk, who lives on East Guthrie Avenue in Madison Heights about 50 feet from the I-696 service drive, is a little concerned motorists will use her street to get around the congestion and the traffic snarls, especially since she walks her dog around the neighborhood a couple of times a day.

Still, she recognizes the interstate needs to be fixed.

“It’s got to be done,” Stanichuk said. “My daughter drove me on it a couple of days ago, and it was terrible. A fix couldn’t come soon enough. The road is bad.”

Hari Ananthaneni, a cashier at the Hoover Detroit Donut Shop and BP Gas Station, said management is worried the freeway’s closure will pinch sales. The doughnut shop is on the southeast corner of Hoover Road and the I-696 service drive in Warren.

He said the I-696 westbound closure will come a week or so after the city started its project to repave Hoover Road between 11 Mile and 13 Mile.

“The management here is still working on a plan to deal with all of the road construction,” he said. “Of course, we’re a little worried about it. But it happens. They have to fix the roads. All we can do is hope they finish it quickly.”

Julian Gombos, 19, of Roseville said he’s lucky to be able to live close enough to walk to his job at a pizzeria on I-696’s westbound service drive between Gratiot and Groesbeck.

Still, he often drives the freeway and recognizes it’s in bad shape.

“This is way overdue,” he said. “It’s in bad shape.”

The state is investing $78 million in Macomb County to remove and replace all the concrete on both eastbound and westbound lanes of the freeway.

It’s spending $12 million in Oakland County for major maintenance, pavement repair and drainage upgrades.

The project will likely create major traffic jams on the 11 Mile service drive and 12 Mile, said Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, who is requesting MDOT allocate money for the additional cost of traffic and rodent control.

“I have specifically requested that council approve an additional two full-time inspectors for rodent control and a part-time employee as well,” Fouts posted on Facebook Thursday. “When the excavating commences large populations of rodents will be stirred up and are likely to move north. This is where our inspectors must be ready and equipped with the necessary resources to eliminate rodents.”

cramirez@detroitnews.com

 

 

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