Michigan DOT Progresses on I-94 Bridge and Road Upgrades
Upgrading an Antiquated Roadway: Michigan DOT Reconstructs One of the State’s Oldest Segments of I-94
Rebuilding and resurfacing Interstate 94 in Jackson County, Michigan, will bring the road up to current standards, ease congestion and enhance safety.
“Our goal is to reconstruct one of the oldest segments of I-94 in all of Michigan,” says Samuel Sorensen, Project Manager for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). “The segment was constructed quite some time ago. It has narrow shoulders and an antiquated roadway.”
MDOT is rebuilding it to remain functional long into the future. The freeway opened to traffic in the late 1950s and early 1960s and is considered obsolete. The department aims to balance safety, mobility, lifecycle costs, environmental sustainability, and aesthetics, while upgrading the road to current standards. Most of the funding came from federal coffers, with some funding for aesthetic improvements paid for by the city of Jackson and Jackson County. The bridges will have the appearance of stone on the columns and the roundabouts will be landscaped with grass, flowers, trees and rocks, and signs welcoming people to the city.
Scope of Work
The $109 million, 9-mile project is scheduled for completion in spring 2020. About 1.4 miles of interstate will be rebuilt and 7 miles resurfaced. I-94 will widen to about 60 feet south of the original location. The project required acquisition of some right of way to accommodate the new alignment. Additionally, the project includes widening the median shoulders from 2 feet wide to 8 or 10 feet wide, while the outside shoulders will be widened to 12 feet. Eventually, the interstate will have three lanes of traffic in each direction, rather than two.
The department is expanding the width of I-94, from 70 feet to 140 feet wide. MDOT is building a new bridge over the Grand River to carry eastbound I-94. A second new bridge will carry westbound I-94. Both bridges are 70 feet wide and 700 feet long and are built with concrete girders. Once the first one is completed, traffic will move onto the new bridge, and the old bridge will be demolished and the second new one built.
A third structure, the Cooper Street bridge, will be rebuilt. The interchange will sport new ramps and have roundabouts on each side of the bridge. The configuration will allow MDOT to narrow Cooper Street’s footprint over I-94 and improve the operation of the interchange. Currently, the department has five lanes on Cooper. This will decrease Cooper Street to one lane in each direction. Roundabouts have been shown to operate smoothly and increase safety with fewer points of conflict.
Dan’s Excavating from Shelby Charter Township, Michigan, received the contract and started work in July 2018. The company was founded in 1974 and performs work for commercial and public clients.
The project has been staged to reduce disruption to the traveling public and residents of the area. Two lanes on I-94 will remain open in each direction throughout most of the project. Some short-term, single-lane closures will take place at off-peak travel times.
Cooper Street was closed during construction, and the interstate beneath it closed for two nights while crews removed the existing bridge structure.
“To construct the new bridge, we had to demo the old bridge,” Sorensen says.
Prior to constructing the new Cooper Street bridge, the department had to mitigate an old coal mine under the interchange. The mine closed in the late 1800s and was last subsided in the 1970s. MDOT treated any water that came out of the ground in the area.
“We basically built a bath tub underground as a perimeter with a thicker grout,” Sorensen explains. “Then we filled in the bathtub with a high-mobility grout to fill any possible underground voids to avoid the chance of subsidence in the future, under the footprint of the bridge.”
Dan’s Excavating brought in special drill rigs for the mitigation.
The department also specified the use of continuously reinforced concrete pavement for this project, something MDOT has not used since the 1970s. However, with the mine under the interstate, the department decided to use the continuously reinforced concrete pavement in case anything started to settle. With the reinforced concrete, the steel would bridge any subsidence that might occur.
“That is something that has not been done in quite some time,” Sorensen says. “Otherwise, it is a pretty straight-forward project.”
Much of the work that impacts traffic takes place at night.
“We try to keep traffic moving,” Sorensen adds. “I always remind everybody to drive safely through the work zone – to drive like you work there.”
The majority of the work will be completed this fall, with some miscellaneous items finishing in the spring of 2020. The contract goes through 2022 to ensure the landscaping and grass grows.
A Look Ahead
This project is one of three planned to update the area’s interstate. Next year, MDOT will reconstruct the M60 interchange to accommodate a wider I-94, with acceleration and deceleration ramp improvements and a new bridge.
In 2021, the department plans to update the Lansing Avenue overpass and the Elm interchange. The bridges will be reconstructed and have many of the same aesthetic features as the Cooper Street bridge. Roundabouts are planned for Elm Road.
Several additional projects are in the planning stages and awaiting funding.
The route is a busy corridor between Detroit and Chicago. The improvements are needed to support commerce in the area, including shipments of cars out of Detroit.
The work on the current project is progressing as planned.
“We are proud of our partnerships with the contractor and working together to have a safe work zone,” Sorensen concludes.