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Michigan DOT Improves M-28 Near Munising

by: Debra Wood
Crews from Bacco Construction create a new roundabout as part of the M-28 reconstruction near Munising. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Transportation)
Crews from Bacco Construction create a new roundabout as part of the M-28 reconstruction near Munising. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Transportation)
A $15.5 million reconstruction of a major route in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula combines utility work, rehabilitation of the road, streetscapes and a roundabout to improve traffic flow and safety for the motoring public on M-28.

“This started as a resurfacing project, but in meeting with local officials, they expressed a desire to replace local utilities,” says Cory Gardner, Newberry Operations Engineer with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

Scope of Work
MDOT and the city of Munising collaborated on the 4.8-mile-long project, because road construction presented an ideal time to take care of replacing the water main, sewer main and stormwater pipes. MDOT is contributing $10.4 million and the city is supplying the rest, including funds from a federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant for the streetscape and decorative lighting.

The team surveyed local residents, asking for their thoughts about roundabout materials and color, and those were incorporated into the design and construction.

About 9,000 vehicles per day drive on M-28 in this area. However, the city with a year-round population of just 2,000 sees more than 1 million visitors pass through in the summer. The community is home to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Hiawatha National Forest, and is on the shores of Gitchee Gumee (Lake Superior). Many of those visitors are not familiar with the area, adding challenges in the design and construction of the project, he explains.

“Traffic is what makes this project unique,” Gardner says. “Bringing in that mass influx of motorists into a construction zone has been challenging. It’s taken a lot of effort by the contractor and MDOT to keep the traffic moving.”

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Fishbeck of Grand Rapids, Michigan, designed the traffic control plan.

The project includes a “road diet,” which reduces the road width from four lanes to three lanes, one in each direction plus a center turn lane.

“It creates a traffic calming effect and provides safety benefits, particularly for left-turns into businesses,” Gardner says.

The Federal Highway Administration calls road diets, with access for all modes of transportation, “complete streets.” The administration indicates road diets improve safety and mobility. One lane in each direction and a center turn lane can decrease crashes from 19 percent to 47 percent and offer fewer lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians to cross. Road diets have been around since 1979 in Billings, Montana. They gained popularity in the 1990s.

MDOT is reconstructing M-28 between Brook and Commercial streets in Munising. The project also includes resurfacing from Commercial Street to Christmas, widening a section from two lanes to three lanes to match the road diet section, constructing a shared-use pathway in a section near downtown, creating a roundabout at the H-58 intersection, replacing curbs and gutters, performing city utility work, replacing a culvert at Jones Creek, landscaping and developing streetscapes.

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The department expects the roundabout will improve safety and traffic flow and reduce confusion at the three-leg intersection with H-58. As a number of roundabouts have been built in the region over the past decade, motorists in the Upper Peninsula are familiar with this kind of intersection and know how to use them, he says. All traffic flows in one direction, so motorists only have to look in one direction when entering the intersection.

“Roundabouts provide several safety benefits to the traveling public,” Gardner reports. “Generally, it reduces crash severity, and there are operational benefits of decreased delay and increased capacity. More motorists can move through the roundabout than with a traditional signalized intersection.”

Construction Challenges
Bacco Construction Co. of Iron Mountain, Michigan, received the contract for the three-year project. Medio Bacco founded M.J. Bacco Construction Co. in 1915 and was awarded its first highway construction contract. At that time, Bacco used horse-drawn scrapers, wagons and slushers, with lots of manual labor. Soon after, the company was renamed and started concrete paving roads in Michigan and Wisconsin with a fleet of motorized equipment. The company has grown significantly in the ensuing years.

The company’s work on M-28 began in May 2020. Crews will take a winter starting this month and continue the project in spring 2021, with significant utility work. Final restoration and cleanup will take place in 2022.

Bacco began with the roundabout construction to take advantage of lower traffic volumes due to COVID-19 closures this spring. Chris Rigoni, Project Manager for Bacco, reports maintaining traffic was a major challenge on the project.

“There’s only one way in and out of Munising,” Rigoni says. “It’s a tourist-rich area and very congested.”

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The company used a part-width construction process. It completed five phases in 2020, “each one had a challenge,” he says. In two of the stages, Bacco built temporary roads to handle the traffic.

Westbound M-28 has remained open throughout the project in 2020, while traffic on eastbound M-28 was detoured to Chestnut and Superior streets. Detours will be to Hickory and Superior streets in 2021. The project had one two-week closure during the roundabout construction.

At Jones Creek, Bacco removed a 60-inch culvert and replaced with an elliptical 53-inch by 83-inch culvert and put it in a new alignment to match the stream. It runs under the roadway.

“It was a pretty extensive replacement,” Gardner recalls.

Bacco has deployed dozers with GPS for placing the subgrade and but not the asphalt paving. The company also uses hand-held units with GPS. The devices also hold all of the drawings.

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The project includes a five-year materials and workmanship pavement warranty.

“Overall, it has been a good project, but time consuming with the multiple stages and traffic,” Rigoni says.

Gardner credits the joint efforts of the MDOT staff, the city, local residents and contractor with the success of the project.

“Bacco has been very flexible dealing with all of the issues related to 2020 and COVID-19,” Gardner says.

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