Warren Mayor Jim Fouts wants state of emergency declaration over I-696 construction project delay

Officials say traffic congestion delays emergency responders


WARREN, Mich. – Warren Mayor Jim Fouts is asking the state of Michigan to declare an official state of emergency over construction issues caused by the I-696 project delay.

It's been weeks since work along I-696 stopped, and Fouts said the blocked roads and the fact that none of the construction workers are working leaves Warren in gridlock. He's calling on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to help.

At the corner of Martin and Campbell roads in Warren, homeowners said their street is changing.

"Basically a shortcut," resident Mark Sapian said.

Residents said it's a shortcut diverting speeding cars to an intersection between 11 and 12 Mile roads.

"People don't even stop for this sign," Sapian said. "I've seen countless cars just blow right through it."

Sapian said the heavy traffic is connected to the construction along the I-696 corridor.

"We're all just wondering when it's going to get down because right now nothing is going on," Sapian said.

Right now, equipment is sitting along I-696. It's due to the ongoing labor disputes.

Fouts believes it's more than an inconvenience, but a public safety issue in possible emergency situations.

Police officers and fire officials insist the city sits in gridlock as the lockout on road projects continues.

"We have a situation that police and fire can't deal with," Fouts said.

In the past four months, Warren has experienced a 27 percent jump in accidents, Fouts said. City firefighters and officers are getting delayed heading to emergencies.

"Right now, our police and fire are compromised because there's no room," Fouts said. "There's no place for them to go."

Fouts wants Snyder to declare a state of emergency in order to get the work back up and running on the highway.

"There's only one person who can solve this situation," Fouts said. "That's the governor of this state, possibly the attorney general."

Homeowners such as Sapian are concerned, especially if they need help from police or firefighters.

"It doesn't sit well," Sapian said. "It wouldn't sit well with anyone. That's a dangerous thing to play around with."

Here is Snyder's response to Fouts' request:

"The state has been talking to both sides in the road-building dispute -- the Operating Engineers 324 and MITA -- in an attempt to help them build a framework for an agreement that will get everyone back to work. We are pushing hard to have this discussion and an agreement expedited because Gov. Snyder understands motorists’ frustration over these stalled projects.

"We have a historic amount of road funding available this year, and in subsequent years that amount will go even higher. Gov. Snyder wants both sides in this dispute back to work as quickly as possible to end this serious and unacceptable delays. These public works projects have been neglected for decades before Gov. Snyder took office and forced a discussion about road funding increases; now it's time to stop the bickering and get them done.

"Since Mayor Fouts apparently sent his letter to the media before the Governor’s Office had it, we have not yet had time to even review the request. Having said that, in checking with MDOT, I have been told the I-696 project was not scheduled for completion until late November. It’s important to note then that the existing closures on I-696 would have been in place right now even if the road building industry was not having this dispute with itself."

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