Your guide to Detroit area roadwork
The calendar and thermometer say winter, but orange barrels already waiting on the roadside say summer roadwork is getting underway.
State and county transportation agencies have scheduled more than $161 million in Metro road projects this year; some are carryovers from the 2014 construction season.
The good news is that construction in Metro Detroit won't have a gigantic single headache, like last year's full closure of Interstate 96. That project, a rebuilding of the freeway in Livonia and Redford Township, forced more than 140,000 commuters a day to seek alternate routes to work and school.
But there are a number of 2015 projects that likely will result in some local tie-ups.
The Michigan Department of Transportation on Tuesday begins a high-impact project at the I-96/U.S. 23 interchange in Brighton Township in Livingston County. It's a major connecting point for west-side Metro Detroiters heading north or south for summer travel. According to MDOT, the interchange is used by 151,000 vehicles a day, many of which use U.S. 23 for trips up north.
I-96 also is a key east-west summer escape route to Lake Michigan.
As part of the $78 million, two-year project, new express lanes will be constructed on I-96 between the eastbound and westbound lanes, and new bridges will be installed over new and old U.S. 23 lanes in both directions.
Twenty-three acres of trees at the interchange are giving their lives for construction of the additional lanes.
A second high-impact work area will be in southern Wayne County, where MDOT plans upgrades to I-275 and Ford Road (M-153) in Canton Township.
The intersection is a notorious choke point because of traffic leaving I-275 to reach retail businesses in the area, including the hugely popular IKEA store, which is expanding.
The $3.7 million project will include the resurfacing of two miles of Ford from Sheldon to Lotz, and safety improvements on Ford between I-275 and Haggerty, just to the west of the freeway.
According to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, the intersection of Haggerty and Ford was the No. 1 intersection for traffic crashes, with an average of 70 per year between 2009 and 2013.
The project will require occasional weekend closures of the ramps from I-275 to Ford. The average daily traffic count on I-275 at Ford is 92,000 and 41,000 on Ford at I-275.
Lodge scheduled for repairs
Another high-price, high-impact project will occasionally tie up the Lodge Freeway (M-10) when MDOT repairs nearly seven miles of roadway between I-94 and Meyers in Detroit, an area used by anywhere from 10,000 to 31,000 vehicles a day.
According to MDOT, the undertaking will require intermittent weekend closures between the Davison Freeway (M-8) and I-94; only one lane of traffic will remain open on nights and weekends.
In Oakland County, the major carryover project is construction of a huge roundabout at the intersection of Orchard Lake Road and 14 Mile, which was started in July 2014.
The roundabout, at a congested retail area, is part of a larger, $12 million project that includes the widening of Orchard Lake plus the realignment of 14 Mile and Northwestern.
"It's definitely the Big Dog of our projects," said Craig Bryson, spokesman for the Road Commission for Oakland County.
"It's a very complex project. Essentially, the 14 Mile/Orchard Lake Road intersection will be closed from April until late summer or fall."
According to RCOC statistics, 14 Mile is traveled by 21,000 vehicles per day; Orchard Lake Road is used by 63,000 vehicles a day.
Jamie Levey, owner of Chrome Tattoo at 14 Mile and Northwestern, said it's been a hassle for customers, and he hopes construction moves quickly.
"It's an odd situation because of where we are located, and a lot of customers get confused by it," Levey said.
"Some people even told me they're staying away (because of the construction) … people have to drive so far down, then turn around just to get here."
Joanne O'Donnell, owner of Bloomfield Aesthetics, a company specializing in permanent makeup, said her business moved from 14 Mile and Northwestern to West Maple in part because of the construction of the roundabout at Northwestern Highway and Orchard Lake Road.
"It was definitely one of the contributing factors" in deciding to move, she said. O'Donnell noted that her business also provides spa services, so construction noise was a major issue.
"It was much louder ... and the construction was right outside our window then."
Hayes work affects business
Macomb County will spend an estimated $42 million on road projects this season, according to roads director Bob Hoepfner.
"It's pretty much an average budget for us, but it does include some major projects," Hoepfner said.
They include finishing the reconstruction and widening of Hayes between 21 Mile and 23 Mile; last year, sanitary sewers were installed.
"This year we'll do the paving portion of the project," Hoepfner said.
The two-year project has affected business at Crank's Catering and Enchantment Center, located for the past six years at 21 Mile and Hayes.
"It has impacted our business, but it's not a make-or-break situation so far," service manager Mike Crank said.
"Naturally, our busiest season is during the warmer months, when we have weddings, anniversaries and graduations. Because of the construction, we have to reroute our fleet of 17 trucks."
The severe winter has had no major impact on Macomb County's road budget. "We've used a normal amount of salt and we haven't had too many call outs for snowstorms," Hoepfner said.
"We hope to have our larger projects started by June and traffic will be maintained during all our projects; no roads will be closed completely."
MDOT will spend $40 million for three related projects on M-53 (Van Dyke) in Macomb County.
They include reconstructing 3.2 miles of roadway from 15 Mile to 18 Mile; resurfacing the Plum Creek Bridge; and milling and resurfacing Van Dyke from the Red Run Drain to 15 Mile.
That stretch of roadway is traveled by 63,000 vehicles on an average day.
Sterling Heights resident Anne Wheeler, who lives at 18 Mile and Van Dyke, will make sure she avoids M-53 as much as possible this season.
"I try and stay off of it anyway, because it's so congested," said Wheeler, who works for Hewlett-Packard.
"But now it will be even worse. I'll restrict myself to other roads, such as 18 Mile, Utica Road and Dodge Park. I'm sure many others who live in this area will do the same.
"But many people coming south from Romeo or northern Shelby Township might not have that option."
Wheeler agrees that Van Dyke could use some attention.
"The road is in really bad shape; it needs the work," Wheeler said.
Brandon Vargo, a commuter who lives at Van Dyke and 21 Mile, said he avoids the area because of constant construction, although the project is well overdue, he said.
"I try to avoid it as much as possible," Vargo said. "I feel like every road down there seems to be under construction, it's been a nightmare driving around that entire area over the last year."
"The entire area just needed improving," he said, "the added landscaping medians will add a fresh look to the surrounding area, though."
According to MDOT, traffic will be maintained during the M-53 projects, with two lanes available during week days and one lane open nights and weekends.
Francis X. Donnelly contributed.