MDOT: Over-sized bridge, potholes prompt I-75 work

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

The long-abandoned railroad in Allen Park is covered with weeds, its tracks half-buried in mud. Overhead, twin 2,000-foot-long bridges carry north- and southbound Interstate 75 traffic over the spot where trains once traveled.

But the trains are gone and the giant Goddard Road bridges remain, demanding expensive maintenance. Now their days are numbered, thanks to a planned $165 million overhaul of Interstate 75 between Detroit and Downriver.

“Goddard Road has very large bridges and we’re spending a lot of money maintaining them,” said state official Dan Grupido.

The project, dubbed I-75 Rouge: Detroit Downriver Connection, is scheduled to begin Feb. 4 with southbound lanes closing along an eight-mile stretch from Springwells to Northline, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation. It will be funded by a mix of federal and state funds, officials said.

The Detroit News joined MDOT Friday to tour the areas targeted for construction. The ride-along began at the Goddard Road bridges, which officials said have been around for about 50 years.

“Goddard Road has very large bridges and we’re spending a lot of money maintaining them,” said Dan Grupido, MDOT engineer in charge of construction at Goddard.

Crews plan to tear down and replace these two bridges over Goddard Road with four smaller structures.

The bridges go over the Sexton and Kilfoil Drain in the north, the abandoned tracks in the middle, and finally Goddard Road in the south.

Crews plan to tear down the bridges and replace them with four smaller structures that will be cheaper to maintain. Two will traverse the drain and another two will go over Goddard Road.

The old railroad tracks in the middle will be demolished and replaced by surface-level freeway, Grupido said.

The Goddard Road bridges stand as one pillar of the project, situated toward the southern end of the closures. Farther north, the Rouge River bridge is the second pillar.

MDOT engineers were working Friday under the Rouge River bridge, where scribbles of orange spray paint marked areas in need of repair. Up top, crews plan to remove and replace the entire surface of the battered roadway, using enough new concrete to cover roughly 20 football fields.

“We’re going to do some repairs (on the piers) down below but the main thrust of the work is absolutely to replace that bridge deck that causes us so much headache,” Grupido said. “The deck is just in such poor shape, it has to go.”

Damage to one of the giant Goddard Road bridges.

Motorists on the bridge have reported falling concrete and gaping potholes. In some spots, the damage has bored completely through the deck.

“You see all the patches,” Grupido said as The News traveled with him over the bumpy bridge. “We’re out here all the time.”

MDOT looked at the possibility of replacing the Rouge River bridge, with initial construction costs estimated between $271 million and $315 million. That figure later ballooned to more than $400 million.

And the piers — some of which are 100 feet tall — are considered to be in good condition because of regularmaintenance.

“Because we do (maintenance) all the time, we don’t have to rebuild the whole thing,” Grupido said.

The planned repair is expected to last 50 years, according to MDOT.

In between the Rouge River and Goddard bridges, officials will focus on road patching, signage and new lighting, Grupido said.

“We’re not going to rebuild the road between the bridges, we’re just going to do some repair work,” he said. “(We’re going to) try and get something out there that will last a little while: address the issues that are out there now and get it in good condition.”

Crews will replace signs that have deteriorating reflective paint, Grupido said. The new signs will be more visible at night and during inclement weather.

The work will require significant road closures and detours, MDOT officials have said.

Beginning Feb. 4, southbound I-75 traffic will be detoured while northbound traffic will be maintained throughout the project’s duration, on northbound lanes in 2017 and on southbound lanes in 2018.

One southbound detour — primarily meant for truckers — will involve taking westbound Interstate 96 to southbound Interstate 275, and back to southbound I-75. Local traffic will be encouraged to detour along traditional southbound streets running parallel to I-75, including Fort and Jefferson.

Approximately 100,000 motorists travel the I-75 stretch per day, MDOT spokeswoman Diane Cross said. That includes trucks headed to and from the Canadian border.

“We wouldn’t want to detour (the trucks) through a neighborhood,” Cross said, explaining the dual detours. “We are trying to accommodate everyone.”

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