Allen, Dix, Schaefer top county road construction list

By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers

Per usual around Downriver, the onset of warm weather has been marked with an onslaught of orange.

Three road construction projects overseen by Wayne County recently have joined the Michigan Department of Transportation’s rebuild of a section of Southfield Road in causing delays and grief for area drivers.

In recent weeks a rehabilitation of Allen Road from Pennsylvania to North Line has begun. Crews will fix parts of the concrete base as well as curbs before applying a fresh asphalt overlay, resulting in lane closures of varying lengths through August, when completion is expected, according to Ken Kucel, director of engineering for Wayne County Engineering.

Total project cost is estimated at $2.2 million along the stretch, which lies along the city limits of Southgate and Taylor.

Similar work is planned in fiscal 2011 along Allen from King to Sibley roads in Riverview and Brownstown Township, Kucel said, adding that county officials are working their way through their road repairs list. He said priorities must be matched up against ever-stretched available funding, and officials have been given no word yet on what might be next after that.

This summer, however, drivers looking to the east for relief from Allen Road construction traffic won’t find it along Dix-Toledo in Southgate, which is undergoing similar work to Allen between Eureka and North Line roads. It too is undergoing repairs to its concrete base and curbs before a new topcoat of asphalt is laid.

After that, however, the road will see the installation of a new traffic signal just north of Eureka midway through the frontage of the vacant shopping center on the northwest corner. The new signal is being placed in anticipation of a new Wal-Mart that will occupy the site next year once demolition of the current buildings is complete.

Kucel said the new signal will be coordinated so it works adjacently with the Dix-Eureka signal at one of Downriver’s busiest intersections.

The Dix-Toledo project began in April and also is expected to end in August. It will cost about $2 million.

Along the northern edge of Downriver lies a shorter but more complicated project, but one that regular drivers no doubt will be glad to see finished.

Full reconstruction is under way on six-tenths of a mile of Schaefer Road from Dix to Greenfield between Melvindale and Detroit. It’s the biggest of the three projects in a few ways, starting with the $2.3 million price tag.

Second, Kucel said, it spans several jurisdictions but is being overseen by Wayne County. County crews are handling the stretch from Dix to Oakwood Boulevard that includes a railroad crossing. Kucel said, while his crews will make repairs to the crossing, the railroad is paying for it.

Work on another segment, from Oakwood to just short of a bridge over the Rouge River between Melvindale and Detroit, will be handled by those two cities and with coordination from the county, Kucel said. That portion has been particularly prone to flooding after rains, he said, especially at the Oakwood intersection, possibly because of deteriorated sewer pipes beneath the road. Lots of heavy truck traffic likely has taken its toll there, he said.

“When the road cracks, water gets in and trucks beat on it, it’s almost an exponential damage sequence,” Kucel said.

The segment of Schaefer, he said, last saw major repairs about 1983 and was overdue for an upgrade. Toward that end, existing pavement is being torn out and will be replaced with 10-inch concrete.

Previous pavement standards used 9-inch framed concrete, which meant it was laced with steel rods to hold it together even as the concrete crumbled.

The new, thicker slabs will be thickened by adding more aggregate base in its cross section. Slabs also will be 15 feet long, as opposed the 40 feet that comprised the previous standard. The longer slabs tended to crack right about in the middle, Kucel said.

Further complicating the project is work being done by Melvindale, whose crews now are replacing some of its water main lines while the road is being rebuilt. Kucel said it was just one more example of the extent of jurisdictional coordination required for the project.

In addition to the time needed to work out the needs and funding capabilities of the interested parties, the Schaefer project also was delayed because of MDOT work on the I-75 Gateway project and accelerated construction along Fort Street in Detroit.

County officials also were waiting for completion of rehabilitation and resurfacing of the Schaefer bridge over the Rouge by the city of Dearborn, which would have been yet another jurisdiction added to the mix of the current project.

Unlike the Allen and Dix projects, Kucel said, motorists will have to wait until September or October because concrete takes longer to stage and cure, and because work can be delayed more easily by bad weather.

Kucel said the concrete being used on Schaefer is not a special mix, but that the new slab length, thickness and aggregate should be adequate for truck loading and are part of a 20-year design life for the pavement structure.