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Michigan's transportation department is hoping to close on a contract by the end of the year that will allow it to rebuild 18 miles of Interstate 75 in Oakland County a decade early.

The Michigan Department of Transportation said in a news release Friday that it has identified a team of contractors and designers called the Oakland Corridor Partners as the preferred bidder to design, build, finance and maintain the final 5.5-mile segment of the estimated $1.4 billion project.

MDOT said last year that it's using a different financing system to fund the project, allowing it to speed up the timeline from a 2030 deadline to 2020. 

Originally, the project to modernize the expressway between Hazel Park and Pontiac was part of a "pay as you go" plan designed to be finances entirely by public money. But instead of doing the project piecemeal with state or federal funding, contractors will now pay for materials, construction and maintenance. MDOT will then reimburse them.

The design-build model is a growing trend nationally in roadway projects and road officials have said the I-75 rebuild is the first time it's been done in Michigan.

Under the system, MDOT can spread funding the project out over 30 years and invest in other parts of the transportation system in the meantime. Additionally, the model has MDOT's preferred team maintaining its stretch for 25 years after it completes the construction.

"In agreements that transfer maintenance responsibilities to a private party," State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle said, "the public owner benefits from guaranteed performance standards and long-term pricing that is locked in throughout the agreement."

MDOT said it originally had planned to contract out this stretch in five separate segments.

The partners would rebuild the pavement, modernize the freeway and improve 28 bridges between Michigan 102/Eight Mile Road and 13 Mile Road in Hazel Park, Madison Heights and Royal Oak.

The project also would separate traffic entering northbound I-75 from I-696 and northbound I-75 traffic exiting at 11 Mile Road. Additionally, MDOT is constructing a 14-foot diameter drainage tunnel between M-102 and 12 Mile Road to separate and meter freeway water from the local storm system to reduce flood risks. The pipeline will be built about 100 feet under the I-75 service drive.

MDOT expects to close on the contract by the end of the year. It said detailed plans on construction activities and timelines will be announced when information becomes available.

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

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

bnoble@detroitnews.com

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