Lane closures and detours made necessary by the major revamp of Interstate 696 have caused congestion and frustration since the project began in the spring of 2018. Now there is an end in sight, as MDOT officials say all ramp and lane closures will be reopened by the end of the year.

Lane closures and detours made necessary by the major revamp of Interstate 696 have caused congestion and frustration since the project began in the spring of 2018. Now there is an end in sight, as MDOT officials say all ramp and lane closures will be reopened by the end of the year.

Photo provided by Diane Cross


I-696 lane and ramp closures to reopen by end of year

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published November 9, 2018

 Cold and wet weather has slowed down the I-696 “Restore the Reuther” project as it makes laying concrete difficult.

Cold and wet weather has slowed down the I-696 “Restore the Reuther” project as it makes laying concrete difficult.

Photo provided by Diane Cross

MACOMB COUNTY — The Michigan Department of Transportation said that despite cold and wet weather, the ongoing Interstate 696 project will have all lanes and ramps open by the end of December.

MDOT sent out a press release Nov. 5 stating that new concrete pavement is being placed every day that weather allows, and workers are days away from completing the first two lanes of pavement between Dequindre Road and Interstate 94. The ramps, shoulders, curb and gutters are being placed concurrently. Placement of the inside lanes will begin shortly and is expected to extend into December.

To complete these additions, westbound I-696 and several on- and off-ramps have been closed for several months, with eastbound traffic being directed onto the westbound lanes for large portions of the project. MDOT said these closures will be reopened by the end of 2018.

“People will be looking at an open freeway after December until the spring,” said Diane Cross, of MDOT communications. “We are doing everything we can to get it open and use the ramps. We’ve completed two lanes and have two lanes that still need to be finished. Gutter work, shoulder work that can handle people pulling off, and some asphalt and concrete work might still need to be completed (in the spring), but the whole freeway will be for use during the winter.”

The I-696 revamp is a project that is long overdue, according to MDOT officials. They said when the project began that deterioration of some of the much-used roadway was becoming hazardous and could not be put off any longer, hence the monthslong closures and detours.

“MDOT’s investment into the entirety of I-696, from I-94 to I-275, is an investment in our infrastructure by working on a roadway that is overdue for work,” Cross said in August. “We had some horrible cases earlier this year with concrete coming up off the road, which stressed the importance and necessity of completing this project.”

The project has been partially hampered by cold and wet weather that hit the area during the autumn months, and Cross said this means that some portions of the project are taking longer than expected.

“Unfortunately the weather has been a stumbling block. You can’t pour concrete in the rain because it’s a chemical mixture and you can’t put rainwater in that mix and have it perform as it should,” she explained. “The contractor is going to have heaters on the project as temperatures get colder, so we can keep working in Macomb County.”

In Oakland County, concrete pavement repair work wrapped up on Nov. 4, which means no more full closures of I-696 in Oakland County. Some joint repair work and drainage improvement work remains to be completed, but MDOT officials said this will generally be completed under lane closures at night and on weekends.

“The Oakland County part will not close down any more for weekends, but it will still close down on some nights and have single lane closures,” said Cross. “In Macomb (County), we are continuing to work as long as we can, but we will have the freeway open before the end of the year. The question is, ‘When we come back in the spring, how much will we have to do?’ So some work might be temporary fixes and get the permanent fix done in the spring.”

With an end to the lane and ramp closures finally in sight, many drivers are heaving a sigh of relief. Local law enforcement said that despite the scale of the I-696 project, things have gone fairly well in terms of traffic issues.

“They have been outstanding and very upfront with us with timely notifications about what’s going on with closures and detours,” said Roseville Police Chief James Berlin. “I give motorists a lot of credit. They’ve done a phenomenal job finding alternative routes and being very patient. … The project was a little overdue and the freeway needed to be prepared. I think MDOT and the public did a great job and did the best they could dealing with this disruption.”

Berlin said that any project that affects so many people would cause an uptick of automotive issues, but he added that both MDOT and drivers did as good a job adapting to these challenges as could be expected.

“We have had an increase in traffic and crashes because the cars have to go somewhere. With that many more cars on the same roads, you are going to have more fender benders and more congestion,” Berlin said. “(Traffic and accidents) were never more than we expected with a project of that size, and I think it will go back down to pre-project level, if not better.”

MDOT is asking for drivers’ continued patience as the project continues.

“Drivers should still plan extra time as they have since we started in the early spring of this year,” said Cross. “We understand it is a major inconvenience, as we use the same roads ourselves. We are working to make this a safe and usable road as soon as possible.”