Patterson announces widening of I-75 in State of the County address

By: Mary Beth Almond | C&G Newspapers | Published February 15, 2016

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OAKLAND COUNTY — Those who frequent Interstate 75 can expect some relief from rush hour traffic this year, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced during his 2016 State of the County address.

The Michigan Department of Transportation will begin working on widening I-75 this summer in an effort to ease congestion and improve commerce, Patterson said in front of an estimated 600 people at the Auburn Hills Marriott Feb. 10.

The project, which has been in the works for five years, will modernize I-75 by adding a fourth lane from Eight Mile Road all the way to M-59, and three lanes in each direction from M-59 to the Genesee County line.

“It is something that is long overdue and should be celebrated by all motorists in southeast Michigan who use I-75, especially those commuters who drive Michigan’s busiest expressway at rush hour,” Patterson said in his State of the County address. “We need relief, and we’re doing to get it.”

Along with aiding traffic congestion, Patterson said the plan for what he calls “Oakland County’s Main Street” is also expected to help companies, since more than half of all the businesses in Oakland County, over 23,000 — and their 339,000 employees — are located along the corridor.

“Companies along I-75, like Fiat Chrysler, that support I-75’s modernization will see their employees in a safer commute; it will give companies along I-75 the ability to move goods more quickly through the corridor, and certainly (it will) improve the quality of life by easing some of the worst traffic congestion in our area,” he said.

Along with the expansion, MDOT is researching the possibility of making that stretch of I-75 a “connected” freeway by installing infrastructure that will communicate with vehicles. Auto companies and suppliers, for example, could use the technology to test and advance their connected vehicle programs, Patterson explained.

This summer, crews will kick off construction on the $127 million first phase of the project with the addition of one lane to northbound and southbound I-75 — covering 3 miles of the freeway, between South Boulevard and Coolidge Highway through Bloomfield Township, Auburn Hills and Troy. The project’s first phase of construction  — which will also replace five bridges, reconfigure the interchange at Square Lake Road and make improvements to the Adams Road carpool lot — is expected to continue through the fall of 2017.

“Using innovative contracting will keep costs competitive and shave several months off the project timeline,” MDOT Metro Region Engineer Tony Kratofil said in a statement. “The result will be a safer freeway that has a positive impact on our state’s economy and citizens’ quality of life.”

The overall project will rebuild more than 17 miles of I-75 between South Boulevard and Eight Mile Road in Oakland County and will be completed in phases, possibly through 2020, according to MDOT officials.

During the address, Patterson also touched on the county’s strong fiscal footing, noting  that the county has a balanced budget through 2021, a AAA bond rating, a 4.2 percent unemployment rate, and an economic diversification program that has helped the county recover from “the Great Recession.”

“Oakland County is the best-managed county in the United States. That’s not me saying that. That’s a comment from Moody’s Investors Services, one of the nation’s most respected bond rating agencies. Our excellence in budgeting and our embracing the knowledge-based economy has placed us in a national leadership role,” Patterson said.

Patterson also touched on a new program that he said the Oakland County Board of Commissioners is working on that could offer county employees six weeks of paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers.

Confirming his decision to run for a seventh term as county executive later this year, Patterson said he is “enthusiastic” about the way the county is headed, but said there is still some work to be done.

“To put it bluntly: The state of Oakland County is strong, amazingly strong,” he said.

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