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The Michigan Department of Transportation deserves credit for its work on the massive I-96 reconstruction—and for finishing the project ahead of schedule.

After a little more than five months, the completely rebuilt stretch of I-96 from Telegraph to Newburgh roads in Livonia and Redford Township has reopened. It was closed in April and was originally scheduled to reopen in mid-October. Dan's Excavating, based in Shelby Township, was the general contractor.

Diane Cross, communication representative for MDOT, says multiple factors enabled the early opening.

One was the weather. The cooler summer helped keep the project moving. Hot weather affects the crews and the operation of the equipment. Cross also notes there was a readily available labor force that worked around the clock.

Advanced preparation and planning along with involving the community also were instrumental in helping the project progress steadily.

MDOT went to great lengths to make construction plans available to the public and to involve affected businesses, residents and drivers.

Before opening to traffic, the department turned over the freeway to pedestrians for the first time in its 40-year history. An estimated 10,000 cyclists, walkers, runners and skateboarders participated, as did two marching bands. It was a nice touch to thank the communities for their patience.

While inconvenient, completely shutting down the highway saved money, even with the $3 million bonus to contractors for finishing early. The project cost an estimated $150 million.

Cross says considering there were hundreds of thousands of people affected — from the 140,000 people who use that section of I-96 daily to the drivers on the detour routes who encountered the extra traffic — the bonus money for an early finish was well spent.

MDOT should be commended for its handling of the I-96 project, and it should serve as a model for future road construction.

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