The pavement on the I-75 bridge over the Rouge River in Detroit has been patched so many times over the years, it resembles a quilt of concrete.
In February 2017, the Michigan Department of Transportation closed the southbound lanes of the freeway and began a complete reconstruction of the pavement. Now three months in, MDOT says it’s on schedule to finish this part of the project by the end of the year. Then, workers will do the same thing on the northbound side of the bridge in 2018.
It’s a big job, of course. MDOT estimates the amount of concrete being torn out is greater than that found on the Mackinac Bridge, and would cover 20 football fields. Project Engineer Bill Erben says while the Rouge River bridge itself is more than 50 years old, only the pavement needs to be replaced.
“The girders there are in good shape,” Erben says. “There is new steel reinforcement, there are steel bars that go into the concrete, and then there’s a stud system for anchoring the new concrete to the existing steel girders.”
The closure of southbound I-75 means drivers have to find some other way to get from Detroit to the downriver suburbs. The recommended detour is supposed to route trucks onto westbound I-96 and southbound I-275. But many drivers skip the detour, exiting at Livernois or Springwells to get to Fort Street instead. That has generated complaints from people who live and work downriver, who say the increase in truck traffic on Fort is causing more congestion, especially during afternoon rush hour. Erben says the state can’t prohibit trucks from using Fort Street, as long as they don’t exceed the road’s weight limits. But he says MDOT is trying to manage traffic flow on Fort Street.
“We realize that folks will find the shortest route to their convenience, and so we have gone out and looked at the traffic volumes and adjusted the signal timing,” Erben says.
In addition to the work on the bridge, MDOT is replacing several bridges over other roads, including Goddard Road in Taylor. Commuters can keep tabs on the project at the 75 Rouge River web site.
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