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Three-Phase I-94 Rebuild Brings Multiple Benefits to Jackson County

by: Debra Wood
Dan’s Excavating constructs and overpass as part of the I-94 rebuild in Jackson County.
Dan’s Excavating constructs and overpass as part of the I-94 rebuild in Jackson County.
Experiencing substantial increases in traffic on Interstate 94 in Jackson County, Michigan, since the highway opened in 1960, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is in the midst of a three-phase reconstruction project.

“The current corridor is, in part, obsolete and in need of improvements with the goal to balance safety, mobility, lifecycle costs, aesthetics, pedestrian facilities and environmental sustainability,” says Aaron Jenkins, Public Information Officer for MDOT. “With pavement in poor condition, aging interchanges, and bridges in poor condition and susceptible to high load hits it was the right time to replace this aging infrastructure.”

About 55,000 vehicles travel on I-94 in Jackson County, a busy corridor for trade as well as people.

Most of the funding for the upgrades to current standards came from the federal government and by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Rebuilding Michigan program. The Governor’s five-year transportation program aims to rebuild highly traveled highways and bridges instrumental to the state’s economy. The city of Jackson and Jackson County paid for some aesthetic features, including the look of stone on the columns and landscaping in the roundabouts along the entire corridor.

Completed Work
Dan’s Excavating of Shelby Township, Michigan, completed phase one in 2020. That work began in July 2018 and included replacing the I-94 bridge spanning the Grand River, rebuilding about 9 miles of interstate, widening the median and outside shoulders, and reconstructing and narrowing the I-94/Cooper Street interchange with roundabouts on each side of the new bridge. The work included remediating a coal mine under the interchange. The $109 million project shifted I-94 about 60 feet south of its prior path.
Phase Two
During the second phase, MDOT is rebuilding portions of I-94 between the Airport Road and U.S. 127 south interchanges. The work includes rebuilding the I-94 at U.S. 127/West Avenue interchange, the I-94 Elm Avenue interchange and the Lansing Avenue bridge spanning I-94. The department also is adding freeway lighting to enhance motorist safety.

MDOT designed the project, which includes a diverging diamond interchange (DDI) at I-94/U.S. 127 and a roundabout at the I-94 Elm Road interchange.

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“The conclusion was the at-grade DDI at U.S. 127 was determined to overall be the most efficient option for addressing the existing interchange concerns,” Jenkins says. “Also, the I-94/ U.S. 127 interchange will be a gateway into the city of Jackson. The landscaping, signs, lighting and aesthetics are what will make this interchange look special.”

A diverging diamond interchanges study by the University of Missouri found reductions in motor vehicle accidents resulting in injury or death when DDIs were employed.

Some of the main points considered were evaluating what design would most effectively address existing safety concerns relative to the construction cost, minimize right of way and potential environmental impacts, create acceptable operations and provide options for pedestrian movements, Jenkins explains.

Then at Elm Road, the department chose roundabouts to improve the operational performance of this interchange and surrounding roads.

“This interchange sees high traffic volumes going to car dealerships along Seymour Road with very little room for traffic storage at signals between ramps and a local road was causing congestion,” Jenkins reports. “Installing roundabouts will improve the safety and operations, and eliminate any operational and maintenance costs for signals.”

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Dan’s Excavating also received the $117 million design-build phase two contract. The company performs underground and site preparation as well as highway and bridge construction.

“The design-build model was used to deliver this project due to the tight letting schedule and to promote innovative solutions as the contracting team developed the contract documents,” Jenkins says.

Work began in 2021 on the 5-mile-long project and is scheduled to finish in the fall of 2023. Crews have not worked through the winter. The Lansing Bridge was closed while being rebuilt. It reopened at the end of last year.

The contractor maintains two lanes of traffic in each direction during peak hours along I-94. At the interchange, traffic is maintained using traffic shifts and staging.

“One of the biggest challenges was developing construction staging that maintained two lanes of traffic for motorists and still maintain a safe working area for construction workers,” Jenkins says. “Also, it was a difficult task to maintain key ramp movements and allowing the contractor time for the build key parts of the DDI.”

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Single lane closures occurred along Elm Road for construction of the interchange. Ramps were allowed to be closed and detoured for specific time periods as stated in the contract, Jenkins says.

Phase Three
The department also has phase three under way. It entails rebuilding about 12.5 miles of freeway from the Jackson/Calhoun County line to M-60, reconfiguring the Michigan Avenue and Dearing Road interchanges and providing preventive maintenance on 10 bridges in this corridor. The project also includes drainage, guardrail, and multiple intelligent transportation system device installations.

Michigan Paving & Materials of Jackson, Michigan, received the $160 million contract and work began this spring. This phase was broken into two segments.

“The first segment will be a hot mix asphalt overlay from Michigan Avenue to the Calhoun County line,” Jenkins says. “The second section is a full hot mix asphalt reconstruction from M-60 to Michigan Avenue.”

This phase shares similar traffic challenges as phase two. Work hours have been restricted to limit impacts to the motoring public, Jenkins says. Completion is anticipated in summer 2025.

Photos courtesy of the Michigan Department of Transportation

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