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Michigan DOT’s I-275 Rebuild Project Shifts Into New Phase

by: Mark Bird
Pavement work takes place in September 2022 on the I-275 Revive project in Wayne County.
Pavement work takes place in September 2022 on the I-275 Revive project in Wayne County.
An aerial view of work on Michigan Avenue U.S. 12
An aerial view of work on Michigan Avenue U.S. 12
Work takes place on a bridge on I-275.
Work takes place on a bridge on I-275.
Sixty-five bridges are part of the work on I-275.
Sixty-five bridges are part of the work on I-275.
Crews work under a bridge near M-14 and I-275.
Crews work under a bridge near M-14 and I-275.
Bridge work takes place in the spring of 2023.
Bridge work takes place in the spring of 2023.
New signage is placed on the rebuild highway.
New signage is placed on the rebuild highway.
A crew member smooths pavement in September 2022.
A crew member smooths pavement in September 2022.
A GOMACO paver is used on the I-275 project.
A GOMACO paver is used on the I-275 project.
A Caterpillar 374F Excavator is used for drainage work.
A Caterpillar 374F Excavator is used for drainage work.
In Michigan's Wayne County, the latest phase of construction on the extensive Interstate 275 Rebuilding Project is in full swing. The four-year, multiple-phase, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) project, also known as “Revive 275”, began construction in July 2021. This $281 million road improvement undertaking – scheduled for completion in late 2024 – has been 80 percent funded under the Rebuilding Michigan bond program, with the remaining 20 percent is funded by other MDOT road and bridge templates.

The route of I-275 through Wayne County serves as a western bypass for the Detroit metropolitan area and provides access to the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, making the highway one of the state's most heavily traveled corridors. In addition to airport access, I-275 is also an important route for commuter and commercial traffic; the corridor sees varying levels of traffic throughout the full 24 miles of the project limits but the upper range is as much as 190,000 vehicles per day with a heavy truck and commercial traffic volume.

The project limits are on I-275 from just south of the Wayne/Monroe County line northerly to just north of 6-Mile Road.

As MDOT Project Engineer Jeff Horne explains, “The I-275 corridor passes through several rural and urban communities. It serves several local interchanges as well as interconnects two major freeway interchanges, including I-94 and the I-96/ M-14 interchange. Thus, this corridor not only serves local traffic and many businesses, but also serves the long commuters between Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Lansing.”

The original concrete highway – which was more than 50 years old – had been paved over with asphalt several times over the years. I-275′s bridges had bridge surfaces, barriers, piers, and beams, which frequently required repair work. Horne reports, “The I-275 Rebuilding Project was created to address a long-standing problem of the greatly deteriorated pavement condition of approximately 24 miles along this busy corridor. The project includes 14 miles of road reconstruction, 10 miles of concrete pavement rehabilitation, signing upgrades, guardrail replacement, new pavement markings, intelligent transportation system (ITS) installation, new and improved drainage with storm sewers and culverts throughout, and bridge rehabilitation of 65 total bridges that includes deck patching, epoxy overlays, deep overlays, railing replacement, railing patching, deck joint replacement, pier reconstructions, concrete surface coatings, and approach pavement replacement.” He points out that while no new lanes have been added, the overall width is slightly wider due to improved median shoulder width.

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“The project also addresses potential safety issues that existed due to the deteriorated condition of the old infrastructure,” says Horne.

A Multi-Year, Multi-Phase Project
Dan's Excavating, Inc. of Shelby Township, Michigan is the primary contractor for the project. Construction throughout the full 24 miles began in mid-2021 to address the 10 miles of pavement patching, repair several bridges, and to prep for the more impactful 14 miles of reconstruction. Horne says, “The reconstruction effort began in February 2022 and is expected to take place through December 2023. Some follow-up bridge work and miscellaneous road work, as well as final pavement markings and restoration, will take place in spring of 2024.”

The third phase now underway includes the rebuilding of 13.5 miles of northbound roadway and bridge rehabilitation. Dan's Excavating Project Manager John Morse reports, “We are currently about 30 percent complete with northbound construction.” He explains that the project schedule called for completion in four phases:

  • Phase 1: Build crossovers, shoulder widenings, and pavement repairs (August 2021 – December 2021)
  • Phase 2: Southbound reconstruction (March 2022-December 2022)
  • Phase 3: Northbound reconstruction (April 2023-November 2023)
  • Phase 4: Restoration, ITS completion, integration, and testing (April 2024-August 2024)

Horne adds, “The overall project is approximately two thirds complete, including 10 miles of pavement repairs and work on roughly 42 structures, and all mainline southbound I-275 has been reconstructed. All northbound and southbound traffic is currently on the newly constructed southbound pavement while work continues to reconstruct northbound mainline.”

Project Expanded and Traffic Disruptions Minimized During Planning
According to Horne, due to limited funding the project originally started as a 3R project (resurfacing, restoration, and rehabilitation) designed to address the immediate concerns of a portion of the I-275 corridor through pavement patching and milling and filling with hot mix asphalt. “It was originally intended to address roughly only 7 miles of the current project’s limits. This included repairs to approximately 25 bridges total. This effort began several years ago, but would only keep 'kicking the can down the road' before additional repairs and disruption to traffic would be needed again.

“However, with the passing of the Governor’s Rebuild Michigan bond program, the project was selected to receive additional funds that would allow the opportunity to finally address the underlying conditions and bring the corridor to the level of service that provides a very long-lasting infrastructure.”

As the project planning evolved, a process was developed to minimize full freeway closures, detours, or extensive traffic flow disruptions. As Horne explains, “The project was originally planned to maintain traffic on both the southbound and northbound existing pavement, with the plan to rebuild mainline part-width using a split-merge traffic scheme. While this minimized full freeway closures, the contractor proposed a value-engineering change, which was ultimately accepted, where all traffic is placed on only one side of the existing corridor so that reconstruction of the other bound could be done with much less traffic interaction. This is safer for the motoring public and for the construction team. This scheme also provided some overall time and cost savings.”

Scale of Construction Required Steady Flow of Public Information
Dan's Excavating is utilizing a range of large excavators, dozers, loaders, and off-road trucks for the excavation and pipe work; batch plants and concrete pavers are in use for the paving work. Providing insight into the size of the project, Morse says, “We have had 1.2 million cubic yards of excavation and installed approximately 40,000 feet of drainage pipe. We've built 15 miles of new roadway, using over 1 million square yards of new concrete pavement. Over 100 workers are on the site daily at peak times.”

Horne reports that the public has been informed of all phases of the project via several public meetings before and during the project as well as direct email communication with the local community public offices. “Press releases of major stage changes and ramp closures are given to the public via MDOT Communications. The project also maintains a dedicated website of those anticipated closures and provides other up-to-date information. The project uses MDOT Twitter and Facebook social media outreach. Finally, there is also a dedicated ombudsman and ombudsman phone number for those who wish to call-in with specific concerns or questions.”

Drivers Will Experience Multiple Benefits
As Horne points out, there are many benefits of the I-275 Rebuild Project. With new concrete pavement drivers will experience a much smoother ride with no existing potholes or raveled pavement joints to take a toll on personal vehicles and tires. The new pavement provides for a wider overall footprint with a wider median shoulder and the shoulders also have a new “safety edge” to help minimize differential settlement at the edge. There are also a number of improved sight distances and upgraded safety features with new guardrail and new signing for better visibility.

“The major benefit to be received from this rebuild initiative is that the I-275 corridor will provide a long-lasting pavement that will not need continual repairs as has been an issue for so many prior years,” says Horne.

Project Partners
  • Contractor: Dan's Excavating, Inc.
  • Design: Michigan DOT Metro Region, AECOM (consultant) Wade Trim (consultant)
  • Michigan DOT: Taylor TSC (Transportation Service Center), Metro Region CFS (Construction Field Services), Lansing CFS, Lansing Bureau of Bridges
  • Prime Consultants: Great Lakes Engineering Group, TYME Engineering, ROWE Incorporated, WSP Michigan
  • Sub-consultants: BLN Associates, Atkins, SSI, SOMAT, Tetra-Tech Michigan, HNTB Michigan, OHM, AECOM, Fishbeck, Wade Trim, HRC, Mannik Smith Group
  • MDOT Small Business Program Consultants: Abonmarche, Hennessey Engineers, RS Engineering
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