Two major projects comprise the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) Moving Macomb initiative: Interstate 696, the Reuther Freeway, and M-59. The improvements will replace the pavement for a smoother and safer driving surface, reduce potholes and enhance safety for motorists.
Interstate Highway Construction of Owosso, Michigan, serves as the prime contractor for the $89 million I-696 project, improving 28 miles in Oakland and Macomb counties. MDOT expects the project will extend the life of the road and enable better traffic flow.
“The project’s six-month schedule has been an aggressive one with the entire freeway being affected from one end to the other,” says Diane Cross, Spokesperson for MDOT. “The biggest challenge has been coordinating various types of work activities across the entire freeway.”
The project has been nicknamed “Restore the Reuther,” after the name of the highway. All of the concrete is being removed and replaced in Macomb County on 65 lane miles, due to its age and poor condition, Cross explains. The road carries about 180,000 vehicles daily.
The eight-lane freeway was constructed in phases with the first phase beginning during the 1960s. It had received upgrades since then, but nothing as extensive as the current project, which began in April 2018 after federal money became available.
In Oakland County, crews have performed a variety of repairs and maintenance on I-696 from Dequindre Road to Interstate 275. Work included repairing joints, making drainage system repairs and performing minor structural repairs. Over 135 lane miles were repaired during night and weekend closings, which finished in November 2018. Joint repairs will continue at night, as weather allows, Cross says. Much of the work takes place at night, and multiple lanes will be closed at night and over weekends. One lane in each direction remains open at all times.
In Macomb County, from Dequindre Road to Interstate 94, concrete pavement will be replaced, the drainage system repaired and the service drive upgraded.
“Westbound traffic has been detoured since day one. Westbound lanes were completed late summer, and eastbound traffic is currently shifted onto the completed westbound lanes, Cross explains. “We are currently working on the eastbound lanes and are about 60% complete.”
Throughout the project, MDOT maintained constant communications with stakeholders to coordinate with other projects in metro Detroit.
“Then this project, like other construction work, has been affected by the delays caused by the dispute between contractors and unions,” Cross says.
More than 150 road projects were affected when the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association called for a work stoppage in early September, after failing to secure a new contract with the Operating Engineers Local 324. The last contract expired in June 2018. Governor Rick Snyder announced on September 27, 2018, that the contractors’ association and operating engineers’ union had agreed to return to work through the end of 2018 without a contract.
“The vital work of getting Michigan’s roads repaired should not have stalled, but the important thing now is that projects will be getting back on track,” Snyder said in announcing the deal. “A long-term solution to the contract negotiations still needs to be worked out, but that can and should be done after this construction season is completed.”
Work resumed on I-696 and will continue until the road can be reopened, depending on the weather. Although the road opened to traffic in late 2018, service drive resurfacing will begin in Macomb in 2019.
“I am most proud of the dedication, agility and resiliency of the project team,” says Alan Ostrowski, Project Manager for MDOT.
Angelo Iafrate Construction Co. of Warren, Michigan, received the $60 million contract to rebuild eight-lane M-59, Hall Road in Macomb County. Originally built in 1919 and widened and upgraded in the past, potholes continued to plague drivers on the road.
As the project neared completion, the last layer of asphalt pavement was being laid. Crews will return in the spring to install striping, plant landscaping and paint crosswalks. The top layer consists of a gap-grade superpave, a mix with higher asphalt content for a longer life in high-traffic areas.
“We hope to finish it before winter, but there may be work requiring us to come back in the spring,” says Greg Hooper, Senior Project Manager for Angelo Iafrate.
About 90,000 vehicles travel on the densely populated 3.8-mile stretch of M-59 daily. Businesses line the road, which also provides access to a shopping mall and hospital.
The work includes lengthening approach lanes at crossovers, improving drainage, adding sidewalks, upgrading curb cuts and ramps to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and replacing approaches and joints on two bridges.
“Traffic management continued to be the biggest challenge, with 90,000 vehicles and businesses on both sides of the roads makes for a lot of traffic, driveways, and ingress and egress points,” Hooper says.
MDOT implemented a system that uses Bluetooth to determine traffic flow and warn drivers of delays.
Work began in March 2017, temporarily widening into the median to keep three lanes open. The existing pavement was taken up, crushed and then reused as an aggregate base for the new hot-mix asphalt pavement. Asphalt was a less expensive option than concrete.
Angelo Iafrate paved using an echelon method to eliminate one longitudinal joint. Crews used a 24-foot-wide asphalt paver with a transfer device to ensure all of the asphalt was hot, with no cold spots, important for longevity of the road. The company used a 3-D model and GPS-equipped machinery for grading and earthwork operations. Hooper reports that it saves money and speeds construction.
“GPS provides for a more efficient, more accurate and more timely project,” says Hooper.
In 2017, the project included a section between M-53 to Garfield Road, and crews built a temporary median lane to shift traffic to the inside lanes to begin building the outside lanes and then shifted traffic to outside to rebuild the inside lanes. In 2018, work commenced at the end of February. Crews worked from Garfield Road to Romeo Plank Road and built a temporary outside lane to shift traffic to while building the inside lanes first, before shifting traffic to the outside to rebuild the inside lanes. Crews worked around the clock to complete the job.
“We are proud of having a safe project with a lot of man hours,” Hooper says. “Everyone that came to work went home at night.”
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