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A $1.3 billion project that begins Monday to rebuild an 18-mile stretch of Interstate 75 aims to curb fatal and severe accidents and will use a contracting practice designed to accelerate construction, state officials said Thursday.

“The primary benefit of this 18-mile project is going to be safety,” said Rob Morosi, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The project focuses on rebuilding northbound and southbound I-75 between Eight Mile Road in Detroit to South Boulevard in Bloomfield Township.

The stretch of I-75 has a rate of 2.42 fatal and severe injury crashes per 100 vehicle miles traveled, the highest among comparable freeways in the area, Morosi said.

The 18-mile portion of freeway carries more than a 100,000 vehicles a day, according to MDOT. It also averages more than 1,000 accidents every year, and one in five results in injury, officials said.

“The percentage of rear-end collisions really indicates a true capacity issue,” Morosi said. “It indicates a freeway that’s outdated can’t handle the current traffic volumes.”

It’s also getting too expensive for the state to maintain it, the state said.

“We’re spending more than $1 million a year to keep this freeway operating,” Morosi said. “There are no more Band-Aids. It has to be reconstructed.”

The construction is part of a 14-year, $1.3 billion project, which will be split in eight stages and finished in 2030. Officials said 90 percent of the project’s cost is rebuilding and replacing the freeway.

Once completed, each direction of I-75 will expand to four lanes from three in each direction. The additional lanes will be for high-occupant vehicle, or HOV, for vehicles with two or more occupants.

The project also will replace 41 vehicular and six pedestrian bridges over the freeway.

“We’re essentially taking a freeway that was built in the 1960s and bringing it up to 21st century standards, updating it to modern traffic volumes and modern traffic speeds,” Morosi said.

Morosi made the remarks Thursday during a news conference at the department’s Southeast Michigan Transportation Operations Center near downtown Detroit.

The first stage of the project, which begins Monday, is expected to be completed in two years. It will cost about $91 million with 80 percent of the cost covered by the Federal Highway Administration.

In the first segment, MDOT will shift northbound I-75 onto the southbound lanes between Coolidge Highway and Square Lake in Troy. Two lanes in each direction will be maintained during construction. Alan Ostrowski, a MDOT construction engineer and a project manager, said the speed limit will be reduced from 70 mph to 60 mph while work is being done.

Morosi said MDOT is using a design/build contract, where prequalified contractors bid on the job with limited design documents; an engineering firm was hired to finish the plans and construction is done as the design progresses in an effort to accelerate the project.

MDOT used the same design/build contract to speed up construction of Nine Mile Road over I-75 in Hazel Park and the I-75-University Drive interchange in Auburn Hills.

cramirez@detroitnews.com

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