I-94 bridge upgrades mean orange barrels, detours in Detroit

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

For much of this year, orange barrels and construction signs will become a familiar sight as commuters navigate near Interstate 94 on Detroit's east side.

As part of a project to modernize the interstate, the Michigan Department of Transportation is replacing the Mount Elliott Street and East Grand Boulevard overpasses above it as well as the Milwaukee Avenue bridge over Interstate 75.

Work was slated to last through late fall, the department said in a statement.

Details were unveiled during an open house Thursday at the East Grand Boulevard Church of God in Christ, which is within the area targeted.

Dozens of residents gathered at the church to learn about detours and other aspects of the project from MDOT staff and project consultants. 

The latest segment of the project was displayed at the Thursday meeting.

Terry Stepanski, senior project manager, said the structures targeted in this segment are in poor shape and needed to be addressed before the rest of the I-94 project, which is a much longer effort. Major roadwork on I-94 is expected to start in 2023.

"We wanted to get those reconstructed as quickly as possible," Stepanski said.

The I-94 modernization project covers roughly seven miles of the thoroughfare between Conner Avenue and Interstate 96, MDOT officials said. The effort targets utility and bridge replacement, improvements to freeway interchanges and construction of another freeway lane, according to the department. More than 60 bridges are included.

Reconstruction plans started as far as back as the 1990s and followed public and city feedback in recent years, MDOT officials said. More information on the project is available here.

An overhaul is necessary to improve safety and connectivity on a route that carries as many as 160,000 motorists daily, Stepanski said.

"I-94 was originally built in the '50s with 1950s standards. ... So it is time to reconstruct it to modern day standards," he said. "There are actually far more crashes ... than should be happening for a freeway of its kind."

The work encouraged city drivers such as Dorothy DuBose, who has noticed the deteriorating state of the roads while heading to services at the Church of God in Christ.

"It’s going to be inconvenient for me, but I'm glad they’re doing it because the overpasses and the freeway are so dilapidated," she said while standing near poster boards detailing detours. "It's been a long time coming."

Nathaniel Washington, a deacon at the church, also welcomed the information.

"We wanted to know how does the future look and how do we fit in?" he said. "We all need to be a part of this."