I-696 construction, misery expands to Oakland County
Southfield — Motorists who use Interstate 696 can look forward to a double dose of commuting misery starting this spring.
Besides reconstructing 10 miles of the expressway in Macomb County, Michigan Department of Transportation officials announced Thursday that another 18 miles of I-696 in Oakland County will undergo major repairs this year.
The dual projects will mean lane closures and other restrictions on one of Metro Detroit’s busiest arteries, which carries about 150,000 vehicles a day.
“This is one of the busiest freeways in the state and with the constant flow of traffic, trucks pounding the pavement, it’s going to take a toll on the roads,” said state Rep. Jim Ellison, former mayor of Royal Oak. “But is there ever a good time to do this kind of work? No. Royal Oak residents have been dealing with road repairs, state and local, for over three years and will be looking at a few more, I guess.”
In Macomb County, the $90 million project will rebuild I-696 between I-75 and I-94, while in Oakland County, a $20 million project will include asphalt joint repairs and concrete replacement between I-94 and I-275.
The state is tackling both projects at once in hopes of finishing work in time for the planned start of reconstruction on I-75 in Oakland County next year.
“We cannot have both going on at the same time,” project manager Alan Ostrowski told reporters at a press conference announcing the additional I-696 work.
Major concrete and joint repairs, along with flood mitigation efforts, will begin on the Oakland County stretch in April and take until November, Ostrowski said. It will require numerous detours and overnight lane closures that have not been determined.
“Work requiring lane and complete closures will depend on type of work and location,” he said.
Among the work planned:
■16 miles of concrete repairs (removal and replacement).
■18 miles of asphalt joint repairs.
■600 drainage structures repaired within the freeway.
■30 locations, shoulder side, for ditch/culvert work for flood mitigation maintenance.
Ostrowski said the Oakland County work will be broken into four segments, with the exact schedule still to be determined. The segments were identified as eastbound from I-275 to U.S. 24; eastbound from U.S. 24 to I-75; westbound from I-75 to U.S. 24; and westbound from U.S. 24 to I-275.
Overnight lane closures will be 9 p.m.-5 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, with at least one lane open. Full closures will be during weekends from 9 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.
“We hope to not have any closures around holidays or the Dream Cruise,” Ostrowski said.
Detours for weekend closures are still to be determined but tentatively envisioned for the eastbound segments as: eastbound M-5 to eastbound M-102 (Eight Mile) to northbound U.S. 24 (Telegraph) and southbound M-10 to eastbound M-8 (Davison Freeway) to northbound I-75.
For the westbound segments: southbound I-75 to westbound M-8 to northbound M-10; and southbound U.S. 24 to westbound M-102 (Eight Mile) to westbound M-5.
Officials in communities affected by the planned Oakland County construction said the repairs are needed, but they want to minimize noise and other disruptions as much as possible.
“We have a zone variance noise request from MDOT that will be up at our Monday council meeting,” said Fred Zorn, city administrator of Southfield.
“We recognize our roads need work — Southfield voters passed a $99 million bond to improve our local streets in 2014. We also know MDOT dollars are precious and glad they are planning on spending some of it to improve a roadway which helps to improve travel for our residents and visitors.”
He added: “We also recognize that there will be some inconvenience. We have passed such variances (for night work) in the past because it has helped the project move along at a faster rate.”
Erik Tungate, city manager of Oak Park, which has residents living for nearly two miles on both sides of I-696, said officials will accept at least some nighttime work to speed the project.
“We are partners with MDOT and want the work done — it goes through the heart of our city,” he said.
“So we will approve the night work and closures they are seeking until they become too much of an inconvenience and then will likely restrict the work to day hours, and live with it taking longer.”
MDOT’s I-696 project in Macomb County ran into uncertainty last month when Roseville officials refused a request to allow overnight work, citing concerns about disrupting the sleep of nearby residents.
While MDOT has not detailed its planned construction next year on I-75, it is part of an overall $1 billion, 18-mile project to modernize the expressway between Hazel Park and Pontiac.
“We can’t say with certainty exactly how much will be done in 2019, but we expect there will be construction activity in both a northbound segment and the southbound segment,” MDOT spokesman Rob Morosi said. “It is anticipated both will be completed by 2023.”
A segment between South Boulevard in Bloomfield Township and Coolidge Highway in Troy was completed in September at a cost of about $91 million. The work, which took 108 days, included rebuilding three miles of I-75 in each direction, realigning the freeway, replacing six bridges and modernizing the interchange at Square Lake Road.
Ninety percent of the costs for the I-75 project involves rebuilding and widening the freeway to four lanes in each direction for the 18 miles it crosses several suburbs. About 170,000 vehicles use that interstate every day, according to MDOT estimates.
Morosi said work on an 8.5-mile section identified as the north segment — between Coolidge Highway and 13 Mile — is expected to begin in 2019. It will cost $350 million.
Morosi said it is anticipated that work also will begin in 2019 on a 5.5 mile section — called the south segment — between 13 Mile and Eight Mile through Hazel Park, Madison Heights and Royal Oak. Cost of that work is pegged at around $575 million, Morosi said.