I-696 plaza repairs planned in 2016
Oak Park – — For years, Nathaniel Warshay has enjoyed using the pedestrian plaza over Interstate 696 near Victoria.
As an Orthodox Jew who must not drive during the Sabbath each week, it is the best way to walk from his home to the Young Israel of Oak Park synagogue.
So when Warshay learned that the Michigan Department of Transportation planned to temporarily close the route in 2016 as part of a repair project estimated at nearly $5 million, he wanted to learn more about alternative paths and how the proposed work might impact his travel.
The longtime Oak Park resident attended a public information meeting Tuesday at City Hall. After speaking with MDOT officials about detours and other issues, he welcomed the upgrades.
“There will be some inconvenience, but we can still get around,” said Warshay, who was with his 12-week-old daughter. “I think it will maintain the status quo as opposed to letting it deteriorate.”
MDOT plans to pursue repairs on the three pedestrian plazas over I-696 in Oak Park and Southfield, proposed to start in April 2016 and ending in August.
The proposed work, prompted partly by safety concerns, includes new drainage, sidewalks, pavement and landscaping, project officials said.
From the sidewalk closures on the Southfield plaza to the temporary shutting of the entire easternmost plaza in Oak Park near 10 Mile, the project is expected to impact mostly pedestrians.
The group includes those in the area’s Orthodox Jewish community who rely on them to cross each week and factored prominently in the plans for the plazas when construction began in the late 1980s, project officials said.
That’s why MDOT officials met with residents Tuesday to fill in details, field concerns and gather suggestions as plans progress.
“The residents are affected,” said Lloyd Baldwin, historian with MDOT’s environmental services section.“We want input from the community.”
At City Council chambers, project stages were depicted on poster boards and an aerial map showed streets and intersections near the proposed work zones.
Michael Mandelbaum, who lives near the Southfield plaza, shared suggestions he hoped project planners would consider — including more lighting and an improved play area.
“Those areas definitely need to be upgraded for safety and people usage,” he said.