Warren — Federal and local officials had good news Monday for Mound Road motorists: The long-awaited reconstruction of the pockmarked Macomb County artery will begin in 2020, now that a $97.8 million federal grant has received final approval.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Reps. Sander Levin and Paul Mitchell huddled with Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Warren Mayor Jim Fouts and Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor to share congratulations and announce that work to rebuild nine miles of the heavily traveled road will begin in 20 months.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, announced in early June, has passed a 60-day congressional review period, tantamount to unchallenged approval.

"This is big, big news," said Hackel. "It is believed the largest federal grant in Michigan history, possibly the nation, for a non-federal roadway. This is very special.... This is not just a fix up (repairing potholes) but bridges, sidewalks, and more ... 

"When it is all completed, a road which has been a national embarrassment will be transformed into one people will come from across the nation to see what has been done right here in Macomb County."

In June, officials announced the Mound Road reconstruction project was in line for the federal grant, pending congressional review that has now been completed, Hackel said.

The next phase involves negotiating contracts, officials said Monday. Construction on the nine-mile, eight-lane connection between Interstate 696 and M-59 is expected to begin in 20 months.

Hackel and others said road repair work has already started with funds from Macomb County and the county's most populated cities, Sterling Heights and Warren. Envisioned in Mound's future are skyway pedestrian bridges over the roadway, a system of high-tech traffic controls and likely, self-driven autonomous auto routes.

It is all a far cry from a crumbling, 30-year-old roadway many motorists try to avoid.

"I don't have to tell anyone here what the current situation is on Mound Road ," said Stabenow. "Driving it today I'm glad to say my tires are still hooked to the car and I don't have to replace the axle. This is partly due to $4.5 million a year being spent by Macomb County just in repairs."

"The good news is this is something everyone benefits from, not just a question of public safety, but it's about business and our defense corridor."

Between I-696 and M-59 on Mound, a number of automotive and defense industry plants employ more than 81,000 workers in manufacturing, automotive, aerospace and defense work, she and others said.

They include major employers such as U.S. Army TACOM; General Motors Powertrain; Chrysler Stamping and Assembly plants; BAE Systems;, Ford Transmission; Ford Sterling Axle Plant; and the GM Tech Center.

"The economic impact of this is $8.7 billion for Macomb County and $13.5 billion for the state of Michigan," Fouts said. "This is a shot in the arm for a high-tech hotspot.

"... As my favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, sings, 'the best is yet to come.' "

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