The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) invited the public to learn more about the proposed building and maintenance of the US-23 Flex Route project.
In a Flex Route, a highway shoulder is turned into a lane that can be used during periods of heavy traffic. Adding a temporary third lane is a means of reducing drive time and promoting safety on the roads. Flex Routes also use an intelligent lane control system that can be adjusted and modified as needed. Electronic signs are used to show which lanes are available while also helping motorists stay informed and up to date on traffic conditions and recommended speed limits.
According to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, the cost to add a third lane to each side of a pre-existing four-lane highway is approximately $10 million per mile, meaning that if a third lane were to be added to this stretch of I-96, it would cost approximately $220 million. On the other hand, the projected budget for the Flex Route is $146 million, making it the more economically feasible choice.
Phase 1 of this endeavor was completed between 2016-2017, with a Flex Route on US-23 between M-14 and 8 Mile Road. Phase 2 of the project will begin in spring 2023, although MDOT will be conducting preliminary utility work beforehand. MDOT representatives clarified that different parts of the road would be under construction at different times so as not to drastically affect commuters. In addition, many of the extensive closures are set to be scheduled for nights and weekends, when traffic is minimal. Phase 2 is expected to last through 2025, with three distinct time frames for construction:
- Year 1: north of the Huron River to Spencer Road, including
- Lee Road interchange
- Grand River bridge repair
- Spencer Road bridge repair
- Year 2: north of M-36 to north of Huron River, including
- Silver Lake Road interchange rebuilding and bridge widening
- Huron River bridge widening, M-36 temporary widening
- Noise wall in the northwest quadrant of the US-23/I-96 interchange
- Year 3: south of M-36 to north of M-36, including
- M-36 interchange reconfiguration and bridge rebuilding
In their preliminary research, MDOT outlined several key focus areas, including economic feasibility, pavement condition, and road maintenance. Additionally, MDOT also worked to identify “high crash segments” in order to both minimize incidents and develop management techniques to safely clear and investigate accidents.
The most common request from community stakeholders present at the forum was for new pedestrian pathways in the area. While such renovations are not currently in the works, representatives from MDOT pointed out that this plan does lay the groundwork for any future projects, as the limited sidewalks have the potential to connect various trails and pathways.
Representatives from MDOT also confirmed that the Flex Route will connect with an area of I-96 that currently operates as a permanent three-lane road. In addition to the Flex Route, the project includes plans for new sidewalks, new pavement, and bridge work.
For additional information on the US-23 Flex Route plan, visit the Michigan Department of Transportation website.