Westbound I-696 construction closure begins: Here's what to know

Westbound I-696 to be closed all summer for construction between I-94, I-75

A $90 million construction project will shut down westbound I-696 between I-94 and I-75 starting Friday night. 

That stretch of the interstate will be closed to traffic beginning 9 p.m. Friday, April 27, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced last week. The closure will start with closing eastbound and westbound I-94 ramps to westbound I-696.

"The closure will take the better part of that night and into Saturday morning, and will be fully closed by Saturday at 5 a.m.," said MDOT project manager Alan Ostrowski. 

MDOT called this construction project a "total rebuild." Crews have been prepping the freeway for closure. Work that started Monday did not involve a freeway closure.

WB I-696 won't reopen until November

Once closed, westbound I-696 is not expected to reopen until November. MDOT already was busy this year making emergency repairs to potholes on eastbound I-696.

"We had to make sure eastbound could last until late July," said MDOT's Diane Cross. "That's why we weren't really doing pothole filling on the westbound side ... again, eastbound will always be able to go east even when we rebuild the westbound first, then we switch the eastbound traffic onto this new concrete -- westbound always closed, eastbound always open."

That means eastbound traffic won't stop, but it will technically be traveling on the "westbound" side of the interstate at one point.

I-696 construction details

MDOT first announced the massive interstate construction project in October, saying due to poor condition the freeway must undergo concrete replacement on this stretch in Macomb County. Some bridges over I-696 will undergo maintenance work, too. 

MDOT said this project, nicknamed "Restore the Reuther," must be completed while funding remains available and before the nearby I-75 modernization project gets underway. The transportation department fears a delay in action would push the start of this I-696 construction project to 2024. 

According to MDOT, I-696 carries about 150,000 vehicles a day through Macomb County. 

In Macomb County, $78 million will be invested to remove and replace all the concrete on both eastbound and westbound I-696 from I-94 to I-75. Only westbound I-696 will be closed (from I-94 to I-75), with traffic detoured throughout the entire project. Eastbound I-696 traffic will always have access, although traffic will be shifted throughout the project. The closing of one direction of the freeway will provide a safer work zone for construction crews and drivers.
 
In Oakland County, $12 million will be invested to perform major maintenance, with pavement and joint repairs and drainage improvements.

This map shows the project plans: 

How to get around westbound I-696 closure 

Eastbound I-696 traffic will not be affected. However, at one point during this summer-long project, eastbound traffic actually will flow on what will be the newly-paved westbound side of I-696 while crews work on the eastbound side. 

Make sense? Eastbound I-696 won't be shutdown. 

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) offers this official detour for westbound traffic:

The suggested freeway detour for westbound I-94 traffic which normally would merge onto westbound I-696 is for traffic to remain on westbound I-94 until reaching I-75 in Detroit. Then drivers can travel northbound on I-75 until it hooks up with westbound I-696. 

As indicated by this map from MDOT: 

OK, simple enough. But that's sort of way out of the way, no? Yes. 

Two of your best options for traveling this stretch will be:

  • 8 Mile Road
  • 12 Mile Road

Even 9 Mile and 10 Mile roads could be used, but that might not save you any time compared to the I-94 and I-75 detour. 

Honestly, this won't be fun for drivers. Trying to get creative with your detour might make you want to change your entire lifestyle around this one freeway closure. Don't do that ... relax, breath, stay focused. 

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