Prepare for the pain: Van Dyke reconstruction set for 2015

Plans rolling for one of Sterling’s ‘largest roadway projects in recent history’

By: Cortney Casey | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 4, 2012

 Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi said the 2015 reconstruction will be done “part-width,” with rotating lane closures, and will span from early spring to late fall — and possibly longer.

Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi said the 2015 reconstruction will be done “part-width,” with rotating lane closures, and will span from early spring to late fall — and possibly longer.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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The reconstruction of Van Dyke from 15 Mile to 18 Mile is more than two years away, but as far as the city’s concerned, the countdown has already begun.

City Manager Mark Vanderpool warned of the impending $30 million project, slated to begin in spring 2015, during the Aug. 21 City Council meeting.

“The good news is, it’s a few years off,” he said. “The bad news is, it requires a couple years of planning, and once it does happen, it’s going to be a major inconvenience.

“We are going to begin working with the businesses throughout that corridor, between 15 and 18, talking about the plans, looking at their needs,” he added. “We can’t get started early enough for a project of this scope.”

Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi said it’s not unusual for outreach on projects of this scale to occur so far in advance.

“By going out there to set the stage and getting these discussions (started), it allows the business owners to prepare for the inevitable roadwork that’s going to come up,” he said. “Roadwork is never really friendly to businesses, but it is a necessity. To engage them this early in the process is something we’ve found to be very successful.”

As Van Dyke requires complete reconstruction, “it’s not only replacing the pavement, but it’s replacing the sub-base below the pavement,” said Morosi.

That means the project will span “all year, easy,” starting in early spring 2015 and extending to at least Thanksgiving — that is, “if it can be done in one year,” he said.

According to Morosi, boulevard reconstruction projects are far more difficult to design and execute than those on freeways due to the intersecting side streets, and the need to maintain driveway and business access at myriad points along the way.

Van Dyke will have to be completed “part-width,” he said, meaning crews will rebuild it in sections, with through traffic maintained, but with rotating lane closures.

MDOT generally encourages cities to replace sanitary sewers and water mains located beneath the road, if their conditions merit it, to avoid the need to rip up the fresh pavement just a few months or years later, said Morosi.

It’s also less expensive for the municipality because the state already is paying to tear out the road and can roll utility work in as part of the overall contract, he added.

If such auxiliary projects are extensive, that work may begin as early as late summer or early fall 2014, said Morosi, so the road is ready for pavement the following spring.

Vanderpool said city officials recently met with MDOT, DTE Energy and engineering firm Hubbell, Roth & Clark. While he doesn’t anticipate any major sewer or water main needs, officials will be reviewing any tweaks to information technology and communications infrastructure that might be necessary to service the surrounding business community, he said.

“We want to have the necessary conduit in place for those needs for decades to come,” he said. “You really only get one shot at this for another 30 years.”

In conjunction with the reconstruction, the city also hopes to implement components from a Van Dyke streetscape plan adopted in 2008, said Vanderpool.

“Some of the features we’re going to be looking at is making that corridor more pedestrian-friendly, making the crossings a little more manageable, considering some enhancements, such as pedestrian lighting, new trash receptacles, bus stations, and so on and so forth,” he said.

As much of that cost burden will likely fall to the city, it’s unclear at this point how much of the plan could realistically be implemented, but various ideas relating to “general beautification of the area” will be explored, he said.

Only a matter of time
The reconstruction has been long looming. It originally was scheduled for 2011, but in spring 2008, business owners and residents fervently lobbied MDOT to hasten reconstruction on the pothole-pitted thoroughfare.

MDOT and the city struck a compromise later that year by which Van Dyke received an asphalt overlay, providing immediate temporary relief and extending the roadway’s lifespan for a few more years, delaying the reconstruction.

A state grant paid for about 80 percent of the quick fix’s $1.4 million price tag, with the city and MDOT covering the remainder.

At the time, Drew Buckner, manager of MDOT’s Macomb Transportation Service Center, said such surfaces typically last five to seven years. By the time 2015 rolls around, the overlay will have been in place for about 6 1/2 years, and while Morosi said he believes it has performed as promised, it will likely start to show its age as the reconstruction nears.

“Obviously, we’re getting the results that we anticipated,” he said. “I think as we work our way to 2015, we’ll start to see that necessity for that rebuild come to the forefront. Pavement conditions deteriorate slowly at first, but once the deterioration starts to be noticeable, then it’s more of a rapid decline.”

Vanderpool foresees conducting one-on-one meetings with business owners, as well as possibly holding small workshops geared toward them and nearby residents.

Besides the plethora of affected businesses on the east side of Van Dyke, there’s also the huge Chrysler plants — with thousands of employees, plus delivery trucks that will need to be rerouted — to consider, he said.

“It will be one of our largest roadway projects in recent history, and the largest one in the foreseeable future,” said Vanderpool. “It’s one of the heaviest traveled corridors in southeastern Michigan, especially in Macomb County. I’m sure there are thousands of individuals who either travel that roadway every day or may actually have a vested interest with a business along the way, so I do encourage individuals to take note of the project, and their feedback is important.”

To give input to the city, contact Sterling Heights Community Relations at (586) 446-2489 or city hall@sterling-heights.net.

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