The Michigan Department of Transportation started repaving the I-75 bridge over the Rouge River in southwest Detroit in early 2017. Before then, the pavement was in really bad shape. Concrete was falling away in chunks, exposing the steel reinforcing rods, or rebar, underneath. Patching crews routinely closed lanes to fix the damage, causing traffic backups. MDOT estimated it would take almost two years to replace the pavement on the bridge deck. As the project approaches its completion, project engineer Bill Erben says workers have poured enough new concrete to cover 24 football fields.
“Just have some finishing touches on the northbound side,” Erben says. “First couple of weeks in September, we should have traffic back on the northbound side.”
MDOT has maintained northbound traffic on the bridge throughout the project. Erben says southbound I-75 should reopen at Outer Drive by Aug. 27.
Crews have also been rebuilding I-75 north of the Rouge River from Springwells to I-96. That project is part of the plan to build approach ramps to a new international bridge between Detroit and Windsor. Erben says while both projects are separate, they are scheduled to end at about the same time.
“Hopefully in November, we’ll be able to open up southbound and have all traffic flowing from here down to Florida,” Erben says.
The estimated cost of the entire 75 Rouge River project—including several new bridges downriver—is more than $234 million. But there has been a human cost, too. In July, a three-vehicle crash injured two construction workers on I-75 near Allen Road. Erben says MDOT is taking steps to improve worker safety.
“We’re going to put rumble strips in to slow folks down,” Erben says. “We want folks to pay attention and realize those are real human beings over there working.”
I-75 southbound remains closed at Livernois Ave. Trucks are supposed to use westbound I-96 and southbound I-275 as a detour, but many drivers exit at Clark or Livernois and use Fort Street to get around construction.
Click on the audio player to hear the conversation with WDET’s Pat Batcheller.