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Toebe Construction Reconstructs Corridor on Historic US-127 Outside of Lansing, Michigan

by: Larry Bernstein
A 3.6-mile stretch of roadway is being reconstructed in Ingham and Clinton Counties, just south of Lansing.
A 3.6-mile stretch of roadway is being reconstructed in Ingham and Clinton Counties, just south of Lansing.
The North-South U.S. Route 127 (US-127) runs from Michigan to Tennessee, passing through Michigan’s state capital, Lansing, and connecting Northern and Central Michigan. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is working on a stretch of US-127 just south of Lansing, encompassing areas within both Ingham and Clinton counties.
Revitalizing an Aging Highway
US-127 was initially constructed in 1926 and is one of the original U.S. highways, according to the Michigan Highways website. Today, over 200 miles of the highway runs through Michigan. The route went through multiple changes over the years. It reached its southern terminus in Chattanooga in 1959, and the final extension occurred in 2002. Originally a 110-mile spur that ran from Lansing to Toledo, US-127 is now a 760-mile route.

The project at hand, known as the I-496/US-127 reconstruction, is focused on a 3.6-mile stretch of roadway (from I-96 to I-496) in Ingham and Clinton Counties. This section of the highway is over 50 years old, and the corridor condition has progressed to the point where full reconstruction is the most cost-effective way to remedy the issue.

The project boundaries were established based on limits of similar condition assets and maintenance of traffic needs, according to Aaron Jenkins, a Communications Representative for MDOT. “Maintaining access to US-127, I-496, and I-96 on all sides of the project will help motorists manage the inconvenience the project will create,” he said.

In addition to condition needs, the project will provide solutions to operational constraints that affect the corridor. “High traffic volumes, geometric constraints, and frequent entrance/exit ramps on both sides of the freeway create unnecessary congestion, which increases the likelihood of crashes,” Jenkins said.

The area has a history of congestion-related crashes during peak travel times. “We believe bringing geometrics up to current standards will help alleviate driver discomfort and will reduce the number of crashes,” Jenkins said.

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In addition, a third lane is being added to the northbound and southbound sides of US-127 throughout the project limits, which will increase capacity and improve operations. Although current conditions do not create extraordinary standstill backups, congestion slows travel, and response to crashes during congested times exacerbates the issues.

The average daily traffic for US-127/I-496 throughout the project limits is between 45,000 and 50,000. Directional hourly volumes are around 5,000 vehicles per hour.

There are 18 bridges within the project limits. A few of the bridges are being moved to accommodate improved geometrics, and the team will be doing some work on the rest of the bridges.

“We want to ensure the bridges are in an acceptable condition and get them to a similar expected lifespan as the new roadway,” Jenkins said.

The work on the bridge will include, according to Jenkins, removing all old, worn materials and replacing them with new materials that meet current standard requirements to ensure confidence in the final product.

Strategic Staging
The project is being constructed in two main stages. The staging was developed to balance impacts and duration. Jenkins said that some ramp closure/reconstruction durations will vary, but the two-stage concept was most logical.

Stage one involves construction on the northbound side of US-127, which began in January 2024. It is expected to take one season and wrap up in November 2024.

In stage two, the process will be repeated in 2025, with work focusing on the southbound side.

While the northbound roadway is under construction, traffic will be temporarily shifted to the southbound roadway. “We’re utilizing a temporary moveable barrier wall to allow two lanes in the peak direction at all times,” Jenkins said.

There will be one lane available for those traveling in the off-peak direction. During stage two, when the southbound roadway is under construction, commuters will have access to two lanes in each direction on the northbound side.

“During preliminary design, we looked [at] an alternative to construct each bound part-width,” Jenkins said. “However, the large amount of bridge work greatly increased the overall duration of the project — and impacts — when being forced to construct the bridges’ part-width. The project is currently on schedule.”

Preliminary work needed to be completed to ensure the team was ready to begin stage one. The work was primarily needed to complete temporary widening work on southbound I-496. The team had to make pavement repairs and median crossovers to maintain traffic during the proposed construction staging in 2024. The scope of the work completed in the fall also included multiple items that were cold weather- and moisture-sensitive.

“The fall 2023 work was not able to commence until late October, at which time Toebe [the project’s general contractor] and MDOT worked together to find creative solutions to expedite the schedule while minimizing the disruption to the motoring public,” said Dan Knoll, a Project Manager with Toebe Construction (Toebe). “Ultimately, the pavement upgrades and widenings were completed prior to the onset of winter weather due to the efforts of outstanding field personnel, key subcontractors, and collaboration between MDOT and Toebe, which allowed for a smooth transition into the 2024 construction season.”

The schedule is the most sensitive aspect of the project and will be the key to success, according to Jenkins. If the team cannot complete stage one as scheduled, it will impact stage two. The impact is especially relevant on this project due to the significant traffic shifts. The project would extend into 2026. In addition to inconveniencing the driving public, it would also drive up the budget.

“This is a high priority corridor as it carries many commuters, and there are multiple large stakeholders adjacent to the project,” Jenkins said. “So, the significant economic impact from delays warrants diligence in ensuring the project’s impacts do not expand beyond what is planned.”

Another challenge the team faces is the number of bridges that are part of the project, considering the relatively short distance of the project. There is limited access to the roadways between bridges, which creates “islands” of roadway that are only accessible if the adjacent bridges can carry construction traffic. The challenge is compounded because several bridges are over railroads, so additional coordination is necessary.

“The contractor will have to be thoughtful in quickly getting these segments done in a sequence that gives them the best access possible throughout the project, in order to stay on the right side of the schedule,” Jenkins said.

Leading the Charge
Wixom, Michigan-based Toebe Construction LLC is the general contractor on the project. Toebe has previously partnered with the MDOT Lansing office and has completed many large projects throughout the state.

“This project piqued our interest because we are able to utilize all three of our operating departments (bridge, excavation, and concrete paving) on a single project,” Knoll said.  

“Toebe is a relatively large contractor, and we’ve worked well with them on large freeway projects,” Jenkins said, “so we’re confident that we won’t have issues with the quality of the final product.” He added that Toebe is self-performing much of the work, which should help provide efficiencies in scheduling work.

“Self-performing a majority of the work allows us to have greater coordination, control, and integration between the multiple functions required to deliver a project of this magnitude,” Knoll said.

The state is providing 70 percent of the funding of the $204 million project, while the federal government is paying the remaining 30 percent. Most of the state funds come from bond sales and are part of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Rebuilding Michigan program. Bonds were sold to provide the funding. The project is proceeding at this time because of the successful bond offering.

“We’re on budget at this early project stage, and we intend to keep it that way,” Jenkins said.

Historic US-127 is a major thoroughfare in Michigan. Upon completion of the I-496/US-127 reconstruction project, the section of the road will have operational improvements that should reduce congestion and crashes. The driving public will be able to continue to rely on the roadway for many years into the future.

Project Partners/Personnel
  • Owner: Michigan Department of Transportation; Trevor Block, PE, Project Engineer and MDOT Lansing TSC Construction Engineer
  • General Contractor: Toebe Construction, Wixom, Michigan
  • Designer: Bergmann Associates, Lansing, Michigan
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