M-59 road construction includes blocked-off lanes.

M-59 road construction includes blocked-off lanes.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Getting from point A to the UP and elsewhere when roadwork is everywhere

By: Sherri Kolade | C&G Newspapers | Published May 22, 2018

 Traffic delays are seen on westbound 12 Mile Road, between Haggerty and Farmington roads.

Traffic delays are seen on westbound 12 Mile Road, between Haggerty and Farmington roads.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 I-275 road construction features work being done on the stretch through Farmington Hills and reconstruction from north of Five Mile Road to I-696.

I-275 road construction features work being done on the stretch through Farmington Hills and reconstruction from north of Five Mile Road to I-696.

File photo by Donna Agusti

METRO DETROIT — Before you stuff your suitcase for this summer’s road trip, make sure you pack a healthy dose of patience — construction season is in high gear.

The orange barrels and reduced lanes act as a harbinger of bumper-to-bumper traffic and other construction-inducing delays that are enough to make even the most experienced driver weep.

But fear not.

Local officials and road trippers have divulged their own tips to make road trips somewhat manageable when navigating single-lane reductions, westbound shutdowns and entire freeway closures.  

Farmington Hills resident Dawn Archey and her family of four — including her husband and two children, ages 8 and 5 — do their best to avoid construction zones by using phone apps to find alternate routes. 

“However, sometimes there isn’t a good way around the construction, so we just grin and bear it,” she said, adding that her kids enjoy talking about the construction equipment and seeing the big machines.

Archey said that she and her husband do a number of things to keep their kids happy and distracted. Each kid brings a backpack of books and toys, and Archey brings her own bag of different items to make crafts and snacks.

“The kids make bracelets/necklaces and eat them,” she said, noting that audiobooks, checked out from the library, are another hit.

“We also let them play on electronics in the car, but not the whole time,” she said, adding that if her kids are asleep, the car does not stop. “Once on the way back from Huntsville, Alabama, we drove from Cincinnati to Farmington Hills without stopping. I was crossing my legs for the last hour.”

Farmington Hills resident Carol Fink has learned to embrace the stressors that come with construction during road trips.

The longtime road tripper and nature lover — she is a Farmington Hills Nature Center programmer — said she doesn’t let the bad driving of others impact her.

“I leave earlier than planned and I expect to get there later than I anticipate. It really depends on where I’m going too,” she said.

Fink said that she typically goes on road trips yearly to visit friends in the Upper Peninsula, and she also enjoys solo camping trips. 

For people taking a road trip and feeling the stress, she recommends listening to some tunes, breathing and enjoying the scenery while driving. 

“Because you can’t change the traffic. Alls you can change is your attitude,” she said. 

Fink added that she also takes the scenic route, choosing back roads to avoid construction.

And she makes sure she has plenty of water and snacks in her car. 

“Stop and enjoy what you see instead of just looking at your watch and your speedometer, because you will only get aggravated,” she said.

Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw said that anytime people talk about hitting the road, they need to be mindful of distracted driving, following too closely behind another vehicle, and speeding. 

“(This is) particularly important during construction-zone time in Michigan year-round (and) all the more in the summer,” Shaw said. 

Shaw said that in construction zones, the speed limit is reduced to 45 mph in the areas where construction workers are present.

However, the absence of construction workers does not mean people can fly down the roadways — there could still be orange barrels, debris and restricted lanes. 

“A lot of things happen. Make sure you are able to respond to (them),” he said.

Shaw said there should always be more than enough room between vehicles for the vehicle in front to safely stop without being crashed into.

He said the old-school rule is to keep one car length of distance for every 10 mph of speed — for example, five car lengths when going 50 mph.

“Give yourself enough room to apply the brakes … something we should be practicing every day,” he said.

Shaw said drivers need to realize that any points, fines or costs from speeding tickets in construction zones are automatically doubled. 

“If you strike and kill a construction worker, (you are looking at) a 15-year felony ... right out the gate,” he said. “Take your time and work your way through the construction zone.”

Shaw said that the MSP used to have a construction app, but not anymore. He refers drivers to the Michigan Department of Transportation’s construction website, michigan.gov/mdot, which details an interactive map throughout the state.

Diane Cross, MDOT’s communications representative for the metro region, said that she refers anyone traveling in Michigan to use that website.

She added that MDOT roads begin with an “I,” a “US” or an “M” — like I-75, US 23 and M-10, respectively.  

“Whereas other roads are city, township or county roads,” Cross said, adding that the website shows up-to-the-minute traffic information on MDOT routes, including crashes and when construction is planned. Camera images are also available, which show weather conditions, traffic jams and more. 

Cross said that MDOT used to have an app, but it was discontinued because there were issues with keeping it up to date. The website is just as valuable, she said.

Before she heads out on the road, she heeds her own advice.

“I will look at that same (website) to see if there are any crashes,” she said, noting that MDOT also has a Twitter account, @MDOT_MetroDet, for those who prefer receiving instant traffic reports. 

Cross added that even with all of the technological avenues to receive traffic reports, no mapping service is perfect.

“We had somebody (recently) drive into a construction zone around barriers onto an area where there was no road … because his GPS told him to do that,” she said. “Obviously, drivers are ultimately responsible for their vehicle … for their trips. … You can’t be looking at your phone, can’t be eating — both hands on the wheel, both eyes on the road, and that is the No. 1 tip.”

For more information, click here for the road construction page on the MDOT website.