Road work

The Detroit News - - News - Staff Writer Charles E. Ramirez contributed.

Cross said MDOT of­fi­cials won’t know where they stand on these plans for sure un­til af­ter the con­struc­tion con­tract dead­line is up in early Novem­ber. Un­til then, it is up to the con­trac­tors to get the work done, she said.

Open­ing I-696 for the win­ter will mean more pain for mo­torists come spring, how­ever.

“When we come back (in the spring), we’re go­ing to have to af­fect traf­fic again,” Cross said. “It’s ex­pen­sive and it’s a pain to the drivers. But we have to get it open for the win­ter. What the costs are, who is go­ing to pay it, what we’re go­ing to be charged, that is go­ing to come down the road.”

The con­struc­tion has im­pacted busi­nesses such as Oceans and Seas, a trop­i­cal fish, reef, rep­tile and sup­ply store in Ro­seville.

“We don’t get a lot of our Oak­land County cus­tomers com­ing in like we used to,” said Dan Martin, a man­ager there. “They say they don’t head this way be­cause the traf­fic is out of con­trol.”

De­lay­ing the project could still keep those vis­i­tors away, Martin added. “I def­i­nitely don’t see it chang­ing from what it’s do­ing right now.”

In Oak­land County, “weather per­mit­ting,” this week­end should be the last time this year that east­bound I-696 is closed be­tween Tele­graph and I-75, MDOT said in a state­ment. That clo­sure will be­gin Fri­day at 9 p.m. and end by 5 a.m. Mon­day.

Mo­torists can ex­pect “nightly lane clo­sures” as joint re­pair work pro­ceeds “as long as weather al­lows.”

For drivers who use I-75 to get from down­town Detroit to the Down­river sub­urbs, there’s good news and un­cer­tain news.

The good: “By mid-to-late Novem­ber, we will have 75 com­pleted from Spring­wells” to the south, Cross said. “The Rouge River Bridge will be fin­ished.”

The un­cer­tain: I-75 be­tween Spring­wells and Clark Street might not be fully re­opened for win­ter if na­ture doesn’t co­op­er­ate.

That’s be­cause con­crete in­lay work was timed so that drainage for the Gordie Howe Bridge could be laid at the same time, to avoid hav­ing to dig up the road twice, Cross said.

“We’ve com­bined those things,” she said. “Un­for­tu­nately, those projects are more af­fected by the weather. We are go­ing to do our ab­so­lute best to get it open. Right now it’s still the con­trac­tor’s role. We would like to try to, at least, if we could, get a cou­ple lanes open in each di­rec­tion.

“The fact that we are go­ing to be go­ing to­ward win­ter, if tem­per­a­tures drop and the ground starts to freeze, that’s when we can’t pour con­crete — there’s some parts you just can’t do,” Cross said.

The south­bound I-75 lanes had been closed for nearly eight miles, from Spring­wells in Detroit to North­line in South­gate — forc­ing drivers to find al­ter­nate routes to reach destinations Down­river. But in late Au­gust, MDOT of­fi­cials re­opened south­bound I-75 from Outer Drive on the Detroit/Lin­coln Park bor­der to Si­b­ley Road to the south.

North­bound I-75 has al­ways been open, but lane clo­sures will con­tinue while work is be­ing com­pleted on the Rouge River Bridge, MDOT said.

News of a pos­si­ble con­struc­tion ex­ten­sion did not please Randy Brown, long­time pas­tor at Mil­i­tary Av­enue Church in Detroit, which is near the high­way.

The on­go­ing work has af­fected those vis­it­ing the house of wor­ship from across the re­gion for tu­tor­ing and ser­vices, while more ve­hi­cles pass by on the nearby ser­vice drive and sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hood streets, he said.

“It’s hard to get around … It’s been go­ing on for so long you get used to it, but it’s still not pleas­ant,” Brown said.

The $220 mil­lion ef­fort to re­place the con­crete sur­face on the Rouge River bridge, fix road sur­faces and re­place or re­pair spans be­gan in early 2017.

Last month, 164 road projects across the state were stalled dur­ing a dis­pute be­tween Op­er­at­ing En­gi­neers 324 and the Michi­gan In­fra­struc­ture and Trans­porta­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, which locked out the road en­gi­neers as part of a la­bor dis­pute.

The union and con­trac­tors as­so­ci­a­tion will use pro­fes­sional me­di­a­tors through­out the win­ter to help ne­go­ti­ate a new con­tract, ac­cord­ing to Gov. Rick Sny­der, who per­son­ally met with both sides of the dis­pute.

The spring sea­son typ­i­cally starts in April or May, mean­ing the union and con­trac­tors as­so­ci­a­tion will have sev­eral months to ne­go­ti­ate a long-term deal af­ter crews com­plete work with­out a con­tract this year.

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