In 2012, the northbound side of I-196 was paved and MDOT’s plan was to do the southbound side the next year. Funding, however, was unavailable and the project got put on the backburner.
The funding has become primarily from the Rebuilding Michigan bond funds. The remainder of the monies for the $34 million project is coming from standard federal and state funds.
The pavement on I-196 dates back to the 1960s when the route was constructed. There are many cracks on the road, as well as patches from earlier repairs. It also has drainage issues.
As part of the project, the pavement will be fully reconstructed from the base on up. In addition to the rebuilding and resurfacing, there will be culvert replacements. The team is installing a large box culvert, which will enable the route to be brought up to the new environmental guidelines and improve drainage.
Four bridges are also being impacted. One of the bridges, which is having its deck resurfaced, goes over the Kalamazoo River while another is over the CSX railroad.
Besides roads and bridges, the Saugatuck Rest Area is being replaced with a new facility. “The building was functionally out of date,” says Matthew Block, an MDOT Operations Manager who oversaw the design of the project. “The new modern building will be energy compliant and meet current safety standards.”
Seven miles of pavement are being reconstructed, but traffic control expands for 5 miles making the length of the project 12 miles.
Rather than using the traditional barrier walls, a metal wall is being used. Eilers and Block note that this is the first time a metal barrier wall is being used in the area.
Coordinating with the railroad can be a challenge. However, Eilers says that it is going smoothly so far. Credit the good communication to a lesson learned.
“We’ve learned that the earlier in the process we start coordinating with the railroad, the better,” Block says. “Because the railroad companies don’t have a local presence, there’s a geographic disconnect which makes trying to coordinate more challenging.” He notes that trying to do more with fewer people adds to the difficulties.
The project began in March and is expected to be complete in early November. Eilers says the team is aiming to complete the first phase of the project by July 4. To date, there have been no delays. Block points to the box culvert as something that could potentially interrupt the schedule. “We were concerned about lead time for the box culvert,” Block says. “The contractor proposed casting it in place, and we are reviewing the proposal.”
Serving as the contractor for the project is Michigan Paving and Materials. They’ve worked with MDOT on a number of projects over the years. “We’re happy to partner with them on this project, as they’ve been a good partner with MDOT,” Eilers says.
Block who resides in the area and has served on outreach committees says people have complained about the project area in the past. No surprise considering the condition of the road.
“We’re looking at a better driving surface for motorists and fewer delays due to maintenance,” Block says. There will also be an improvement in safety due to repairs and upgrades related to side slopes, guard rails, and pavement markings. The new rest area facility will also be an upgrade and help people enjoy their ride.”
“The road condition was like driving on a washboard,” Eilers says, “so when the surface is redone, it will help reduce the wear and tear on people’s vehicles and provide a smoother commute…We look forward to completing the project and providing the public with a good product.”