MDOT’s $110 million “Restore the Reuther” project began in April and was scheduled to be wrapped up by the time bad weather hits in November. A labor dispute has stopped work on the project since early September.

MDOT’s $110 million “Restore the Reuther” project began in April and was scheduled to be wrapped up by the time bad weather hits in November. A labor dispute has stopped work on the project since early September.

Photo by Brian Louwers


Warren mayor: I-696 work stoppage creating ‘state of emergency’

Warren mayor asks governor to act amid increased traffic concerns, emergency response times

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published September 20, 2018

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WARREN — Mayor Jim Fouts has called on Michigan’s governor to declare a state of emergency to end a work stoppage that has halted construction on Interstate 696.

The request, Fouts said in a letter to Gov. Rick Snyder on Sept. 18, came after reports from Warren’s police and fire commissioners about the increased traffic on local roads and residential streets resulting from the massive freeway reconstruction project. Concerns are growing that the traffic headaches could be extended because of a labor dispute between state contractors and the union representing heavy equipment operators that has stopped the project cold.

The $110 million project began in April and was scheduled to be wrapped up by the time bad weather hits in November.

The mayor’s letter cited “extreme” traffic backups on 11 Mile, 12 Mile, 13 Mile and 14 Mile roads as a result of the construction. Increased traffic and speeding in residential neighborhoods was also mentioned, along with increased emergency response times and more accidents.

“Clearly, we have a serious public safety problem in Warren due to delays in I-696 construction,” Fouts said. “It’s critical to note that if I-696 construction is delayed by winter, the problems in Warren will be magnified and public safety will be even more endangered.”

Fouts said the reports from Warren’s public safety administrators “prove beyond any doubt that traffic congestion in Warren merits a state of emergency declaration so immediate remedial action can be taken.”

The Michigan Department of Transportation Association issued a statement previously indicating that it is not a party to the negotiations between the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation and the Operating Engineers 324 union. The statement posted to the MDOT website indicates, “Our priorities remain the safety of workers and the traveling public and maintaining traffic (to) alleviate delays as much as possible.”

According to the statement, MDOT contractual specifications address the contractor’s responsibilities. Those include maintaining a safe work zone for motorists at all times, even during a delay caused by a labor dispute.

By contract, MDOT is required to grant construction extensions because of labor disputes and acts of God. Costs incurred by the contractors as a result would not be compensated.

Ari Adler, director of communications in Snyder’s office, pointed out that the I-696 project was not scheduled for completion until late November, and that the existing closures “would have been in place right now even if the road building industry was not having this dispute with itself.”

“The state has been talking to both sides in the road building dispute — the Operating Engineers 324 and MITA — in an attempt to help them build a framework for an agreement that will get everyone back to work,” Adler said.

He added that the governor understands “motorists’ frustration over these stalled projects,” and is “pushing hard to have this discussion and an agreement expedited.”

“We have an historic amount of road funding available this year, and in subsequent years that amount will go even higher,” Adler said. “Gov. Snyder wants both sides in this dispute back to work as quickly as possible to end this serious and unacceptable delay in these public works projects.”

Fouts has expressed concerns about the project since the spring, ranging from an influx in rodents as a result of the construction to traffic and noise issues. In an April Facebook post, he pressed to limit construction past 10 p.m.

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