Prep work for the third and final segment of the Interstate 75 expansion begins Aug. 12, running from a point north of Eight Mile Road to a point north of 13 Mile Road.

Prep work for the third and final segment of the Interstate 75 expansion begins Aug. 12, running from a point north of Eight Mile Road to a point north of 13 Mile Road.

Photo by Deb Jacques

MDOT preparing for final phase of I-75 modernization project

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published July 26, 2019


MADISON HEIGHTS — An ambitious effort to make Interstate 75 safer for commuters will soon be entering its third and final phase.

Officials from the Michigan Department of Transportation recently shared details.

“The modernization of Interstate 75 is an example of MDOT’s commitment to using innovations in design and construction to take an outdated section of freeway and transition it into a 21st-century infrastructure that will operate safely and efficiently for decades to come,” said Kimberly Avery, metro region engineer for MDOT.

However, not everyone is happy with the project.

“For years, the city (of Madison Heights) has either opposed or cautiously remained silent on the expansion project,” said Brian Hartwell, the mayor of Madison Heights. “As a matter of public policy, we continue to oppose the project in general, which will spend $1 billion on a freeway to nowhere. We’d rather the state spend those transportation funds on public transportation and local roads.”

The plan
The third and final segment of the I-75 expansion runs between a point north of Eight Mile Road to a point north of 13 Mile Road.

“This segment is much more complicated to rebuild since this is the only section of the modernization project where the freeway is below street level,” said Rob Morosi, an MDOT spokesman.

The first segment ran between South Boulevard, south of M-59, and Coolidge Highway beginning in August 2016 and concluding in September 2017. This phase rebuilt an aging freeway and provided a major safety upgrade by removing the northbound left lane exit ramp and left lane entrance ramp to and from Square Lake Road, replacing them with standard right lane access for both exiting and entering traffic on the northbound side. Morosi said that the first segment was completed on time and on budget, at a cost of $91 million.

The second segment is underway between Coolidge Highway and just north of 13 Mile Road, working on the northbound pavement and bridges this year and the southbound pavement and bridges next year, with minor wrap-up work expected in the spring of 2021. This phase is rebuilding old substandard pavement and bridges in poor condition, and improving mobility by replacing heavily used interchanges at 14 Mile and Big Beaver roads with a “diverging diamond” interchange design that is more efficient and doesn’t require the construction of an extra right of way. This segment will cost $224 million.

For the third segment, construction begins Aug. 12 prepping the site, which will be rebuilt in quadrants starting in the south. The four quadrants are northbound I-75 from Eight Mile Road to Interstate 696, to be rebuilt in 2020; southbound I-75 from I-696 to Eight Mile Road, in 2021; northbound I-75 from I-696 to 13 Mile Road, in 2022;  and finally, southbound I-75 from 13 Mile Road to I-696, in 2023. This phase will cost $630 million, bringing the overall project cost to $945 million.

“The original plan for the modernization project, pre-2016, was to build the project in nine separate segments over an 18-year duration. We combined segments to get the modernization project completed about a decade sooner,” Morosi said. “Several factors necessitated the project, including pavement that was failing … and bridges that were rated in poor condition.

“There is also a crash history that needed to be attended to,” he added. “In the 18-mile stretch from Eight Mile to South Boulevard, there was close to 1,000 crashes annually. Most of those crashes were in clear conditions, and the most frequent type was rear end and sideswipe collisions, which indicates a capacity issue and an old freeway design.”  

Traffic impact
For the work this year, the right lane on southbound I-75 will initially be closed from north of I-696 to Eight Mile Road. The southbound exit to Nine Mile and Eight Mile roads will also be closed.

The right lane closure on southbound I-75 is to widen the shoulder to carry a lane of southbound traffic in 2020. After the shoulder work is completed, the left lane on both northbound and southbound I-75 will be closed from Eight Mile Road to north of I-696 in order to build the median crossovers for 2020. Crews will also close the ramp from westbound I-696 to southbound I-75.

Morosi said that he doesn’t expect the ramps to remain closed from Aug. 12 through November, but the lane closures will stay in effect during that time.

In addition to widening I-75’s outside shoulder on the southbound side to carry traffic in 2020, the work this year will include bridge work at the Dallas overpass and removing sections of the barrier wall for the traffic shifts in 2020 and 2021.

Morosi urged commuters to be patient during the process.

“This project will provide a needed safety benefit by modernizing this 5-mile stretch of freeway,” Morosi said. “New drainage infrastructure, safer overpasses, and rebuilt freeway lanes and ramps will have an impact on the local community, both in the short term with inconveniences and in the long term with a safer means of travel.”

Local concerns
The mayor of Madison Heights said that his city has concerns about the I-75 project.

“Specifically, we have played a game of whack-a-mole to object to the ever-changing plans of state road officials. A year ago, we were told the state would not replace two essential bridges connecting east and west neighborhoods — the automobile bridge between Brockton and Dallas that connects to Royal Oak south of Lincoln, and the pedestrian bridge that connects the neighborhood to Kroger south of 12 Mile. The state forgets its freeway interrupts the people who live around their road. I recruited our neighbors in Royal Oak City Hall to object. Last I heard, the bridges will be replaced. But I’m not holding my breath.

“I also adamantly oppose the addition of an exit around Lincoln Avenue,” the mayor continued. “The peace, tranquility, history and property values were not considered by state engineers. Our city already is shouldering the permanent loss of tax revenues from the private property taken and bulldozed by the state. Next, we will suffer the decline in values that buffer the new exit. Further, to protect our neighborhoods, there might be local road expenses to install barricades. And guess what? Our state allows the heaviest trucks in America. Those trucks will now barrel down Lincoln Avenue in Madison Heights and Royal Oak. This is an example of unaccountable, distant engineers failing to design for the people who are forced to live with their work product.

“Through the coming years of gridlock, orange barrels and detours, I pledge to monitor every twist and turn of the state plan, and I will challenge any unnecessary disturbance, destruction and cost to our city,” Hartwell concluded. “We can evaluate our options, but without state funding I can’t see how we ask our taxpayers to fund expensive corrective measures in light of limited city funding.”

MDOT officials said the project will keep everyone safer.

“The modernization will impact not only drivers who use the freeway, but also first responders in the local communities by reducing the number of crashes,” Morosi said. “You can’t place a dollar figure on reducing crashes and saving lives.”