Chunk of I-696 critically injures driver

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published May 18, 2017

 A 42-year-old Grosse Pointe woman remained in critical condition May 18, a day after a heavy chunk of concrete smashed through her windshield and knocked her unconscious.

A 42-year-old Grosse Pointe woman remained in critical condition May 18, a day after a heavy chunk of concrete smashed through her windshield and knocked her unconscious.

WARREN — A 42-year-old Grosse Pointe woman remained in critical condition May 18, more than 24 hours after a chunk of concrete broke away from the roadway on westbound Interstate 696, near Hoover, and smashed through the window of her vehicle.

“It’s actually part of 696 proper,” Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw said, confirming that the material came from the road surface and not a bridge over the freeway.

Shaw said the driver was knocked unconscious when the heavy chunk of concrete smashed through her windshield on the driver’s side at about 8:40 a.m. May 17. A second vehicle was involved in the ensuing crash, but Shaw said that driver was uninjured.

According to MDOT spokesperson Diane Cross, repairs being conducted on eastbound I-696 May 18 in an area near the crash were working along a scheduled route for pothole filling.

“Yesterday was a horrible situation. We are thinking about that poor lady and hope she’s going to be OK,” Cross said.

She added that complaints about potholes are “a regular thing,” but that there were no specific complaints on that area of I-696 around the time of the accident.

Motorists who encounter dangerous road conditions can report them through the Michigan Department of Transportation’s “Mi Drive” interactive map at mdotnetpublic.state.mi.us/drive. There’s even an app that drivers can download to use when they’re not behind the wheel.

Shaw said MDOT and the Michigan State Police coordinate emergency road issues through their combined dispatch.

According to MDOT, I-696 in Macomb County was built in the mid-1970s.

Cross said the department has spent $317 million over the last decade repairing and maintaining state roads in Macomb County, which includes $15 million in previous patching projects on I-696. Regular maintenance includes patching and concrete replacement, and joint sealing to limit water intrusion and potholes. Of the $317 million in total projects, she said about $50 million has been spent on I-696 projects alone.

Other recent MDOT projects in Macomb County include $60 million on M-59, $42 million on M-97/Van Dyke, $28 million on the I-696/I-94 interchange, $20 million on I-94 between 11 Mile Road and Masonic, and $18 million on Groesbeck between 11 Mile and 14 Mile roads.

Cross said nearly half of Macomb County’s $54 million bridge repair budget through MDOT over the last 10 years was spent on I-696 bridges. Those repairs included long-term preservation, immediate inspections and crash-related repairs. She added that the state’s long-term budget includes reconstruction costs that coincide with the life span of its bridges.

A plan to replace the concrete on I-696 between I-94 and Mound Road has been planned for the 2020 construction season at a cost of $70 million, Cross said, barring the availability of additional funding before then.