Commuters told to prepare detours for I-696 closure

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 1, 2017

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Upcoming construction on Interstate 696 next year will mean that other nearby roads will have to accommodate detoured traffic, according to state officials and other observers.

State Rep. Diana Farrington, R-Utica, recently warned the public of upcoming hassles that could impact commutes due to the freeway’s planned westbound closure from Interstate 94 to Interstate 75. Westbound traffic on I-696 — but not eastbound — will be closed in that stretch starting in 2018, with work beginning in spring and ending later that year, Farrington’s office said.

Farrington encouraged people in Macomb County to think ahead of the upcoming construction and pursue alternative east-west routes to get to wherever they need to be.

“I would advise seeking alternate routes and I expect to see an increase in traffic on Hall Road and Metro Parkway once construction begins,” she said in a statement.

Gary Bubar, AAA Michigan public affairs specialist, said traffic would likely be rerouted to other major east-west roads, particularly the mile roads, as well as some diagonal thoroughfares like Groesbeck Highway and Gratiot Avenue. As a result, drivers may see increased traffic volumes on those roads in 2018, he said.

“Most obvious is allowing more time and more planning for your daily commute as well as other driving and also utilizing some of the alternative routes, east-west routes, but understanding that other drivers will be using those too,” Bubar said. 

“So it’s going to require understanding and tolerance of everyone while this is going on. But keep in mind that the end result will be a better, safer roadway for everyone.”

For freeway travelers, Diane Cross from the Michigan Department of Transportation recommended a freeway-to-freeway detour option: taking westbound I-94 into Detroit and then connecting with northbound I-75 until reaching westbound I-696.

Cross acknowledged the problems that the project could impose on commuters.

“I don’t think anybody can be ready to have a full freeway closure, especially not a freeway that handles about 75,000 vehicles a day in the westbound direction of I-696 through all of Macomb,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the freeway is in such poor condition that it’s just an absolute must. We have to close it to repair it or we’d have to close it because it wouldn’t be safe to use.”

Find out more about the Michigan Department of Transportation by visiting AAA Michigan’s website is