A new concrete-lined Interstate 75 storage and draining tunnel buried 100 feet below ground is an attempt to avert flooding in the area of I-75 and Interstate 696.

A new concrete-lined Interstate 75 storage and draining tunnel buried 100 feet below ground is an attempt to avert flooding in the area of I-75 and Interstate 696.

Photo provided by the Michigan Department of Transportation


Third segment of I-75 modernization project begins

By: Sarah Wojcik | Metro | Published February 24, 2021

 A custom-built boring machine is currently mining a 14.5-foot-diameter tunnel.

A custom-built boring machine is currently mining a 14.5-foot-diameter tunnel.

Photo provided by the Michigan Department of Transportation

 A custom-built tunnel boring machine, named Eliza by the public, was deposited in a 65-foot shaft near I-696 and has, as of Feb. 11, mined 2,100 feet toward 12 Mile Road.

A custom-built tunnel boring machine, named Eliza by the public, was deposited in a 65-foot shaft near I-696 and has, as of Feb. 11, mined 2,100 feet toward 12 Mile Road.

Photo provided by the Michigan Department of Transportation

OAKLAND COUNTY — On Feb. 11, the Michigan Department of Transportation and Oakland Corridor Partners presented the plan for the third and final segment of the Interstate 75 modernization project in Oakland County, scheduled to start Feb. 26.

The last leg of the 18-mile freeway modernization project, which is scheduled to conclude in 2023, is a 5.5-mile stretch of southbound I-75 from Eight Mile Road to north of 13 Mile Road through Hazel Park, Royal Oak and Madison Heights.

The first 3-mile segment spans from north of Coolidge Highway to north of South Boulevard, which began in 2017 and is now complete and open to traffic. The second approximately 8.6-mile segment spans north of 13 Mile to north of Coolidge Highway, with ongoing work at interchanges.

The 2021 project work will take place both south and north of Interstate 696.

South of I-696, work will include southbound I-75 from Eight Mile to I-696, the southbound service drive from Eight Mile to I-696, the Highland Avenue pedestrian bridge, the Browning Avenue pedestrian bridge and the Shevlin Avenue vehicular bridge.

North of I-696, work will include the 11 Mile Road bridge, the Bellaire Avenue pedestrian bridge, southbound I-75 at 13 Mile Road and southbound I-75 over the 13 Mile Road bridge.

Southbound I-75 traffic will be crossed over to the northbound I-75 side, with a minimum of two lanes maintained in each direction at all times. While bridges are demolished and replaced, detours will be posted. Portions of the southbound service drive from Eight Mile to Shevlin will be periodically closed and detoured to through traffic. Driveways on the service drive will remain open except during driveway construction.

Several ramps will be closed in 2021, including the southbound I-75 to Eight Mile exit ramp, the Nine Mile Road to southbound I-75 entrance ramp, the southbound I-75 to Nine Mile exit ramp, the eastbound I-696 to southbound I-75 ramp and the westbound I-696 to southbound I-75 ramp in late winter, as well as the northbound and southbound I-75 ramps at 11 Mile Road in the summer. Detours for ramp closures will be posted.

Sean Kelsch, vice president of AECOM, the project team’s lead designer, said that in addition to rebuilding the freeway and bridges, the work will also include constructing a new drainage system, sound walls and high-occupancy vehicle lanes in 2023.

In an effort to solve flooding issues that have plagued the area of I-75 and I-696 over the past decade, the project team custom built an underground boring machine named Eliza by a public vote. A crane dropped the machine into a 65-foot shaft in the earth near I-696.

Rob Morosi, MDOT communications specialist, said mining of the 14.5-foot-diameter tunnel, which is located 100 feet below ground, can progress 70-100 feet in a day in peak conditions, including the installation of its concrete lining.

“It will continue working toward 12 Mile, about 2 miles away. Once done at 12 Mile, we’ll pull the machine out and bring it back to this location at I-696, drop it down and head south down to (Meijer at Eight Mile Road),” Kelsch said. “It doesn’t stop over the winter like the work above does, and will go on for the next two years.”

David Nachman, CEO of Oakland Corridor Partners, said the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some supply chain and personnel delays, but overall, the project is on track. Nachman said crews completed the 2020 project work on time and he expects the same for the work in 2021.

He added that he feels, with a self-imposed acceleration of work on the 13 Mile Road area, the project will comfortably be completed by its scheduled end date of 2023.

“There are severe disincentives if (the project) is delayed beyond 2023,” Nachman said.

The team is hopeful that crews can complete the project, specifically the drainage tunnel, before any more big rain events. Historically, large rainfalls have created flooding problems due to a failure of the current pump system in place.

For more information, visit modernize75.com, email info@ocp-175.com or call (586) 486-3626. For more information about the second segment of the I-75 modernization project, email MDOT-I75-MegaProject@michigan.gov.