Motor City, home of the “Big Three” automakers, is running short of good roadways for all the vehicles that roll off its assembly lines. A study conducted by the Reason Foundation determined that Los-Angeles-style traffic jams are in store for metro Detroit by 2030 unless new roads are built and the state learns how to manage its highway system.
The study (“Building Roads to Reduce Traffic Congestion in America’s Cities: How Much and at What Cost?”) concluded that Michigan needs 3,660 new lane-mi., at a cost of $27 billion, to keep up with increasing traffic. It also indicated that if new roads aren’t added, rush-hour commutes in Detroit will take 50 percent longer than during non-peak times.
Currently, rush-hour commutes average 38 percent longer than during non-peak times.
Not only are there not enough roads in metro Detroit, but existing roads and bridges need serious attention.
“It’s very old infrastructure,” indicated Rob Morosi, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) communications specialist for the metro region.
Weakened by Detroit’s “brutal freeze-thaw cycles,” which Morosi explained are “more brutal” than regions with colder temperatures that don’t fluctuate as frequently, and heavy traffic (43 percent of all Michigan traffic and 33 percent of all bridges, with subsequent overpasses, are concentrated in a three-county area), Motown’s roads need a makeover.
Beginning in 2002, MDOT’s “Fix the Six” program targeted six main corridors in and around Detroit: I-75, 94, 96, 696, M-10 and M-39.
Since 2003, Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration invested more than $402 million in Detroit to repair dangerous bridges, roads and highways. She has accelerated projects as part of her Local Jobs Today initiative.
Construction on I-75 in Wayne County addressed 26 bridges and overpasses between M-102 (Eight Mile Road) and M-8 (Davison Freeway), with work divided into four projects.
Project 1, budgeted at $2.4 million, consisted of replacing the ramp and bridge from southbound M-85 (Fort Street) to southbound I-75 in Brownstown Township.
“We replaced the fly-over ramps over all three northbound I-75 lanes,” Morosi elaborated.
Around-the-clock single-lane closures on northbound I-75 at Fort Street and sporadic ramp and lane closures through the project were eased somewhat by detours, but finishing well ahead of the October deadline provided relief.
Project 2 is just beginning, but is scheduled to re-open to traffic in November 2007. Work to be done includes total reconstruction of north- and southbound I-75 between Gibraltar Road and Dix-Toledo Road in Brownstown Township, Flat Rock and Woodhaven.
Crews will rehabilitate bridges and overpasses. MDOT anticipates maintaining two lanes of traffic in both directions via traffic shifts. Prime contractor on Projects 1 and 2 was Toebe Construction.
Project 3 was finished this summer. Work involved rehabilitation to the bridge carrying I-75 over M-85 in Detroit.
“We replaced a barrier wall, putting joints in the north route stack,” said Morosi, adding that a lot of patching also was done.
Project 4 also was completed in early August, within the $2-million budget.
The resurfacing of north- and southbound I-75 between Piquette Street north of the I-94 interchange to M-102 in Detroit was conducted under the watchful eye of prime contractor Ajax Paving, the largest asphalt paving company in southeast Michigan. Split into two assignments (M-102 to M-8 and M-8 to I-94), the work was performed on weekends and during off-peak hours on weekdays.
St. Clair County
According to Morosi, I-94 is undergoing a $40-million complete rebuild.
More than 4 mi. between Gratiot Avenue (the I-94 Business Loop) and Griswold Street are being rehabilitated. Also included is repair work on the I-94/Gratiot interchange and the Ravenswood Road Bridge.
Divided into stages, work was completed on westbound lanes before beginning work on eastbound lanes, and was conducted via traffic shifts in order to keep open two eastbound and one westbound lane.
Macomb and Oakland Counties
Nine bridges in Macomb County have undergone work in 2006 as part of the Fix the Six plan. Six of them were total deck replacements, according to Dan Everett, project manager of MDOT. The others involved substructure work.
Four bridges in Warren and Centerline are being worked on in stages, with multiple lane closures during off-peak hours. One structure, Hayes Road over I-696, had design issues, and had to be re-steeled, said Everett.
The five bridges in Roseville also were completed in stages, with detours and multiple lane closures.
Completed in September at approximately $2.8 million, some bridges underwent total deck replacement while others needed only substructure repair and deck patching.
Work was done seven days a week under traffic because this was an incentive project of 60-day duration. Everett said the contractor was allowed only 20 days of incentives; he collected 19 because the work was completed in 42 days, except for the concrete surface sealer.
“We have to wait 28 days for the concrete to cure before it can be sealed,” he explained.
Franklin Road Bridge over I-696 in Southfield, Oakland County, has been closed until replacement work is complete. New ramps are being constructed from Franklin Road to westbound I-696 and from eastbound I-696 to American Drive.
The work on the $5-million project is being combined with total reconstruction of north- and southbound M-10 between I-696 and Lahser Road in Southfield. Numerous ramp closures and traffic shifting have occurred during the rehabilitation of three bridges.
Ajax Paving won a $2-million contract in Oakland County to resurface more than 10 mi. of I-96 between the Oakland/Livingston county line and Novi Road. Work is being conducted during overnight hours on weekdays and on weekends.
Other Work in Wayne County
Work on M-10 (the Lodge Freeway) is the only portion of the Fix the Six project behind schedule. A new completion date is uncertain.
The project provides 10-year concrete repairs and rehabilitation of bridges at the M-10/I-75 interchange. Traffic has been rerouted during construction.
Four bridges over M-39 are being replaced in Wayne County: Rotunda Drive and Warren Avenue in Dearborn, and Paul Street and Tireman Road in Detroit, with the Detroit bridges commencing after work on the Dearborn bridges is completed. Project Manager Robert Teale said the $5-million contract is not a small job, but noted that “dollars get big in an urban environment.”
The two bridges in Dearborn require total replacement, but the other two are getting bridge deck refurbishment. Pilings are being replaced on some. All will receive new concrete beams.
One bridge contained a substantial number of utility lines. The redecking of that bridge was listed as a separate item in the contract and was not included in the A + B incentive requirements.
“These bridges were built in the ’60s,” Teale reflected. “They reached the end of their useful life. There are 900 bridges in Wayne County, a lot of them on the freeway.”
Considering 2006 not a particularly busy year for construction work, he anticipated that will change next year.
“There are major projects next year. There are three projects on M-10 reconstruction for $100 million; this office has two of them. Gateway will be about $150 million, and there’s I-75 and Ambassador Bridge — it’s the busiest U.S.-Canada crossing and the busiest commercial crossing.”
Morosi reiterated the importance MDOT places on expediting repairs, noting Detroit’s “reliance on commercial traffic.”
Squeezing the Schedule
The six routes on M-10 were originally planned to be spread out over two construction seasons.
However, because M-10 serves commuter traffic to the downtown business district, two border crossings into Canada (the Windsor Detroit Tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge), and various sporting and entertainment venues, the city was eager to have work completed in only one season.
With reconstruction of 1.27 mi. of roadway (7.6 lane-mi.) and repair or removal and replacement of five bridges to be done, MDOT recommended full closure in both directions during the summer months of 2002.
However, because full closure would adversely affect access to downtown businesses, the city of Detroit objected. After considerable discussion, MDOT convinced the city that full closure would reduce the time work zones and detours would have to be in place. Concessions were made: closures didn’t begin until after hockey season ended in July.
Detroit City Council President Maryann Mahaffey told Transportation Management and Engineering that closing an entire stretch of M-10 in the downtown area that summer helped MDOT finish the work more quickly and at a lower cost than could have been achieved if it had been conducted over two construction seasons.
Fully closing the road allowed more space for equipment, material staging and operation. It provided a safer work environment for crews. Transportation Management and Engineering reported that contractor damage claims were dramatically lower. The only downside MDOT reported was increased vandalism because police don’t routinely patrol closed freeways.
With full closure, the contractor was able to beat the 65-day deadline by 12 days, collecting a sizeable bonus through incentives built into the contract providing for $25,000 per day for early completion. The typical traffic maintenance costs for a project like this would be approximately 5 to 10 percent of the total cost, a number much higher than the bonus paid for early completion of the $12.5-million project.
Just the M-10 portion of the Fix the Six project affected 97,900 vehicles per day.
Because of the number of drivers affected, MDOT initiated an extensive communications program to keep Detroit residents and travelers updated on all six major projects under way in the metro area.
A Web site provides up-to-date lane closures and progress reports. Drivers can sign up for e-mails to get route-specific detour information.
The Sunday Detroit Free Press included fliers highlighting the purpose and status of the project, as well as locations of detours and alternate routes. TV and radio also kept the motoring public informed.
“We held traffic coordinator meetings monthly,” added Everett, “to disseminate information to the media. We always submit our closure schedules so people will be prepared. With a project this big in a busy city, we have to reach out to keep people informed.” CEG