MDOT to begin I-69 construction on March 30

John Casey, with State Barricades, posts a new construction zone speed limit sign Monday, Mar 23, east of Taylor Road on I-69 in Smiths Creek. (Andrew Jowett | Times Herald)

John Casey, with State Barricades, posts a new construction zone speed limit sign Monday, Mar 23, east of Taylor Road on I-69 in Smiths Creek. (Andrew Jowett | Times Herald)

By Tony Wittkowski | Local Government Reporter | The Times Herald

Contractors will spend the next two summers replacing 11 miles of eastbound Interstate 69 through the middle of St. Clair County.

The Michigan Department of Transportation project to rebuild I-69, from west of M-19 to east of Taylor Road will begin March 30 and continue through mid-November.

After that, Jim Petronski, MDOT transportation engineer, said eastbound traffic will be shifted onto the westbound.

“One lane of traffic in each direction will be maintained, with traffic separated by a temporary barrier,” he said. “Then we will go into a seasonal shutdown (in November) and come back in April of 2016 and work through August.”

Dan’s Excavating from Shelby Township will be completing the $47.4 million project.

Construction will include:

• Reconstructing the roadway and interchanges at M-19, Wales Center Road and Taylor Road.

• Reconstructing bridge approaches.

• Repairing seven bridges and three culverts.

• Drainage and safety improvements.

• New signs and pavement markings.

• Guardrail work.

• Intelligent transportation systems work.

The 11-mile project affects the eastbound side only. An average 14,500 vehicles use the freeway daily.

“The majority of the road work will be done this year, with bridge work scheduled to take place between April and August next year,” Petronski said. “Next year we will be redoing the Taylor Road Bridge.”

“This project goes through three interchanges,” Diane Cross, MDOT spokeswoman, said. “So we are going to have temporary crossovers that will maintain M-19 and Wales Center for the majority of the project.”

The Taylor Road interchange will be closed from May 1 until September. The Wales Center Road interchange will be open until early August.

The M-19 interchange will remain open until early September. The M-19 ramps are expected to reopen to traffic in mid-October.

Victor Whitehead, a truck driver from Georgia, said maintaining access to the interchanges will only make the single-lane traffic slower.

“It messes up our ability to drive,” he said. “Our times, our deliveries, everything. It screws us completely.”

Whitehead transports anything from groceries to clothing for a Minnesota trucking company.

He said the construction will cost him time and money.

“It still shuts you down between one to five hours of trying to make money out here,” Whitehead said. “If these tires aren’t rolling, we don’t make no money. We are a dying breed out here.”

Brandon White, a truck driver form Florida, said he uses I-69 at least twice a month.

“It’s not going to help,” White said. “I deliver high-end cars to Toronto and this will definitely slow the process down.”

White said Florida gets a lot of construction too, however, the reasoning is different.

“There is a lot of construction in Florida,” he said. “The difference is in Florida, they are doing it to widen the roads and make more room. Here it’s about fixing them.”

Adam Lukas drives I-69 a few times a month when delivering car parts from Toronto to Flint.

Lukas can attest to how much material passes the U.S-Canadian border. Lukas said the drive will hamper other Canadian truck drivers when it comes to reaching Flint.

“We have to live with it, I guess,” he said. “I-69 is the main way to get to the border. Toronto traffic is bad enough on the weekends.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 23, 2015)

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