I-96 reopens to traffic after crowds walk it
Livonia — After a five-month reconstruction project, a seven-mile stretch of Interstate 96 reopened Sunday evening, providing long-awaited relief to western Wayne County commuters.
The Michigan Department of Transportation announced the reopening at 8 p.m. Sunday, hours after thousands of people came by bike, foot and skateboard to test out the newly improved freeway.
Earlier Sunday, Gov. Rick Snyder had said I-96 would reopen to cars and trucks for Monday morning's commute.
The highway's reopening comes weeks before initial projections.
Snyder had announced the road was ready for motorists at Madonna University during an event to commemorate the conclusion of the $148 million project that repaved the interstate from Newburgh to Telegraph. The work fixed 37 overpasses and 28 ramps, added new lights, upgraded utilities and inconvenienced thousands of commuters in western Wayne County.
Before the freeway reopened to motorists, transportation officials opened it to pedestrians for the first time in its 40-year history. They were confined to a 1.75 stretch of the road near Levan and Newburgh for about two hours.
"It's a lot of fun," said John Desautel, a Redford Township resident who walked his dog Snickers on the road.
Dana Getz of Livonia has waited for I-96 to reopen for months, programming the date on her cell phone.
"I want to be the first one in line on the ramp," said Getz as she guided her 8-year-old son, Dominic, on the new pavement. "I've never been so excited."
Getz said she had to add 20 minutes to her trek to her job in Ann Arbor since the freeway shut down for the overhaul.
"I didn't realize it was such a main artery," Getz said. "The work has been phenomenal."
Teichera Madison and her husband Kevin were also excited about the new and improved new I-96. She rode her bicycle while her husband walked.
"It's wonderful," said Madison, an Oak Park resident. "I'm happy they're allowing people to feel it out."
Euraka Ethridge of Redford Township rollerbladed on the road.
"It's awesome," Ethridge said. "The lights ... the pavement ... it's all beautiful."
State officials didn't have official estimates of crowds except to say thousands of thousands turned out Sunday.