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 Law enforcement and ordinary drivers alike are expressing relief now that both directions of traffic on I-696 are open once more, ending months of work along the busy freeway.

Law enforcement and ordinary drivers alike are expressing relief now that both directions of traffic on I-696 are open once more, ending months of work along the busy freeway.

Photo by Edward Osinski

Local police say I-696 closure didn’t cause the traffic problems they anticipated

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published January 16, 2019

EASTPOINTE/ROSEVILLE — With Interstate 696 open in both directions, drivers are breathing a sigh of relief as more than six months of lane closures and detours came to an end.

After westbound traffic on the major freeway had been closed since August, both directions were once again reopened Jan. 5. Local law enforcement along the I-696 corridor had to adjust its road patrol plans to keep up with the additional volume on surface streets and the car accidents that often accompany it.

“It fortunately didn’t affect us as much as we thought it would,” said Roseville Police Chief Ryan Monroe. “People had to be more cautious when using the service drives, and after the first few weeks, it seemed like people adjusted. We had our officers to monitor the additional traffic on the surface streets and looking out to make sure people were showing proper caution in the affected areas.”

A key part of law enforcement’s reaction to the work was simply making sure the public was informed about the changes.

“You have to forewarn your public that main roads are being shut down for long periods of time,” said Eastpointe Public Safety Director George Rouhib. “We put it on social media, and the council talks about it. We also talk to local media to help get the word out. We were far enough away from I-696 so we didn’t see any major differences in traffic violations or accidents as a result of this closure, so our department never really needed to adjust how we were stationing our patrol units.”

Officials from both departments were glad that drivers seemed to adjust to the changes and exercised the proper caution when dealing with detours and alternate routes.

“I haven’t heard of any complaints about the additional influx of traffic because it was closed,” said Rouhib. “None of our officers have been complaining. We’ve had more or less the usual amount and types of traffic up Eight Mile and Nine Mile roads.”

Local police departments also want people to know that although both directions of traffic on I-696 are now open, some work will continue into the spring, and drivers still need to keep an eye open for workers in construction zones.

“Some work will still be going on; people just need to be cautious when they see the orange barrels up,” said Monroe. “When you see workers, or police officers for that matter, on the side of the road, we ask drivers they be careful and aware to keep everyone safe.”

Additional work by the Michigan Department of Transportation will take place on the service drives that run along the sides of I-696 in the spring. Monroe said the departments are planning on similar measures to ensure that people are able to adjust to these upcoming changes as well.

“We don’t have anything formally planned for the service drive work,” he said. “We still need to talk with MDOT to see how specifically it will affect the community, but obviously we will adjust how we monitor the affected areas accordingly.”

Overall, both Monroe and Rouhib expressed their satisfaction that most of the work on the project has been completed and people can drive freely along the busy expressway again.

“Everybody is happy now that it’s open,” Monroe said. “I’ve been on it now that it’s open and it’s fantastic. Thinking about what 696 used to be like, it’s not even a comparison. They did a great job.”

Call Staff Writer Brendan Losinski at (586) 498-1068.