MDOT to reconstruct I-75 south of West Branch
Public meeting to be held March 16
From June 23 to Sept. 3:
All lanes of northbound I-75 will be open from 11 a.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday.
From May 28 to Sept. 3:
All lanes of southbound I-75 will be open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. All lanes, both directions, will be open for the Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends.
WEST BRANCH — The Michigan Department of Transportation will be starting an extensive road construction project on I-75 from Cook Road to the Arenac and Ogemaw County line late March.
According to MDOT Communications Representative James Lake, the department is focused on timing the project to achieve a balance between minimally affecting tourism and completing the project in a timely manner.
“We realize there is a lot of northbound traffic on Fridays and southbound traffic on Sundays, and we are going to do our best to stay out of the way of that tourism traffic,” Lake said. “We are certainly conscious of how important tourism trends are — especially in Northern Michigan.”
Lake said with the substantial scope of this project, achieving that balance can be a challenge.
“We could get snow as late as May and as early as October,” he said. “Typically we are paving toward the end of the season, and with asphalt you cannot pave when it is wet and we have to be mindful when we schedule our projects.”
According to Lake, the project type and projected durability will make the headache worthwhile in the long run.
“The project we have coming up this construction season is called an unbonded concrete overlay, which means we’ll place a 1-inch layer of asphalt over the existing concrete, then add a new 6-inch layer of concrete over the entire roadway,” Lake said. “We expect this rehabilitation project will last 25 years, which is longer than other repairs we looked at for this project.”
The department will be hosting an open house-style public meeting at the West Branch Township Hall on Fairview Road in West Branch March 16 from 4-6 p.m.
According to a press release, the total cost of the project is expected to be $22 million to repair 6.5 miles of I-75, including reconstruction of the north and southbound exit and entrance ramps at Cook Road and the West Branch rest area entrance and exit ramps and parking lot.
“The contractor has decided to replace the northbound exit ramp and southbound entrance ramp at Exit 212 with asphalt,” Lake said. “This will facilitate reconstruction of the ramps while maintaining the current road height, with the added benefit of getting the ramps back open to traffic more quickly.”
Lake said this section of I-75 has not been reconstructed since the 1970s, with the exception of the joints.
“As most people in the West Branch area are aware, the main problem with this stretch of highway is the deteriorated concrete joints,” Lake said. “This has been a significant maintenance issue over the years, and has required both joint replacements and repairs. Over the past two summers alone, we’ve spent $1 million repairing this section of I-75.”
Lake said the project is what MDOT calls a “design/build project,” meaning that in addition to building, the contractor works with the department to design the project. Ajax Paving Industries of Troy was the contractor for the project.
“We’re very aware of how critical the freeway ramps at Exit 212 are to businesses in West Branch, which is why we’ve worked with the contractor to develop a plan to minimize the impact the ramp construction, and the project overall, will have to traffic,” he said. “We’ve limited closure of the ramps to between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., reducing the number of travelers who will be affected by the overnight detours to Exit 215.”
Lake estimated the detour will take approximately eight minutes.
According to Lake, the project will run all season, which he defined as a best estimate based on the weather patterns of previous years between April and October.
“The difference in the period between Memorial Day to Labor Day is we are not going to allow certain lane closures on certain days,” he said. “For much of the summer we are not going to allow northbound lane closures on Fridays and southbound lane closures on Sundays.”
The project is estimated to be completed by mid-November.