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Drivers, residents brace for SB I-75 shutdown next week

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

In about a week, the Michigan Department of Transportation begins a $200 million project to upgrade a 17-mile stretch of Interstate 75 from Detroit to Brownstown Township to fix bridges, potholes and signs.

In about a week, motorists’ headaches will begin for the nearly two-year project. Starting Feb. 4, southbound I-75 will be closed eight miles between Springwells in Detroit and Northline in Southgate.

Both sides of the freeway will undergo repair, with northbound traffic diverted to the southbound lanes when the southbound side is complete.

The project will be completed in October 2018, MDOT officials said.

Dubbed I-75 Rouge: Detroit Downriver Connection, the project will affect Flat Rock, Brownstown, Woodhaven, Taylor, Southgate, Allen Park, Lincoln Park and Detroit.

“The bridges are shot,” said Bill Erben, a project manager for MDOT following a meeting Thursday where about 250 people gathered at the Woodhaven Community Center. “The concrete at the Rouge bridge is shot. Our maintenance people are going out there patching it all the time.”

Motorists on the Rouge River Bridge have reported falling concrete and gaping potholes. In some spots, the damage has bored completely through the deck. The repair is expected to last 50 years, according to MDOT. Constructed in 1967, the 1.63-mile-long bridge is considered the largest in Michigan in terms of surface area. It carries 37 million vehicles a year, of which 15 percent are trucks.

The project includes concrete replacement at the north end of the project between Clark Avenue and Springwells Street, deck replacement for the Rouge bridge and work near Goddard, West Road and Gibraltar Road, according to MDOT officials.

The project also will build smaller bridges over Goddard and the Sexton-Kilfoil drain in Allen Park.

During the project, southbound traffic on I-75 will be detoured from Interstate 96 to Interstate 275, increasing routes from 17 miles to 52 miles, MDOT officials said.

Planning, designing and budgeting took years to put together, said Matthew Chynoweth, MDOT deputy region engineer.

The project also will replace the concrete surface on the two Dearborn Street ramp bridges adjacent to the Rouge River bridge as well as the Fort bridge just north of the Rouge River bridge, patch pavement on northbound and southbound I-75 between the Rouge River and Goddard and add the so-called Intelligent Transportation System equipment, which includes electronic signs, cameras and traffic information gathering equipment to help MDOT communicate with motorists.

Southgate resident Susan McConnell said she understands the work needs to be done. She takes I-96 and I-275 to work and expects to see an increase in motorists.

“There’s not much you can do but accept it,” she said. “Hopefully, it can be done safely. People always seem to find different ways to go to and from work.”

McConnell worries about impact the increased traffic on Fort Street will have on pedestrian traffic in Southgate.

“I go out for runs, so I’ll cross (the street),” she said. “You have all these people shopping.”