MDOT confirms it'll finish I-75 in Oakland Co. by 2020

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Southfield — A different route for financing road projects is enabling the state to finish a project to rebuild Interstate 75 in Oakland County up to 10 years ahead of schedule, state officials said Monday.


"We came out last year and announced this modernization project and we took a pay-as-you-go approach," said Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi. "We heard from communities, motorists, and stakeholders that this was going to take too long. So we looked at a different way of financing to accelerate this project."

He made the comments Monday during a news conference held at MDOT's Metro Region Office in Southfield. He was joined by Tony Kratofil, MDOT's Metro Region engineer, George Spakouris, vice president of KPMG Corporate Finance LLC, and Joe Pavona, special advisor to Gov. Rick Snyder on Public Private Partnerships. 

Under a different financing system that uses a private investment model instead of state and federal money, Morosi said MDOT will be able to speed up the timeline for the project. 

Instead of doing the project piecemeal and the state footing the bill for every step of construction, contractors pay for its materials, construction and maintenance and will be reimbursed by MDOT. As a result, contractors have an incentive to do work on or ahead of schedule. 

"Think about building a home," Pavona said. "If we were building a house with nine rooms, we'd have to go out and get bids to build each room.

"In a private-public partnership model, we combine all of the segments of construction into one package, go out for a single bid and award the contract to a project team that is responsible for doing all the work. It's like getting a mortgage for a home that you pay off in 25-30 years."

Initially, MDOT officials estimated construction on the freeway would be completed 2030.  But on Monday, they said because of the new financing system the project should be finished by 2020. The Detroit News reported the accelerated schedule Monday.

Officials said they used a similar system for the project to replace freeway lighting in Metro Detroit.

MDOT will begin issuing requests for qualifications this fall for contractors interested in partnering and building the project. Winning teams are expected to be selected in summer and fall of 2018, with construction schedules to be developed.

Craig Bryson, a spokesman for the Road Commission of Oakland County, welcomed the news. 

"It's a good idea," he said. "It'll be short-term pain for a long-term benefit. We whole-heartedly support it." 

The project to modernize 18 miles of I-75 from Eight Mile in Hazel Park to South Boulevard in Pontiac in Oakland County began in 2016. It's estimated about 170,000 vehicles use the interstate, which was built in the 1960s, daily.

In addition to new pavement, the project will also replace 47 bridges and stormwater drainage.

Also as part of the project, a 14-foot diameter pipeline will be built between Eight Mile and 12 Mile roads to catch stormwater from the freeway, officials said Monday. The pipeline will be built about 100 feet under the I-75 service drive.

Detroit News writer Mike Martindale contributed.