I-94 reconstruction, widening may begin in 2019; project will take 20 years to complete

There's recently been an uptick in news about a proposed reconstruction of I-94 in Detroit, along a 6.7-mile stretch between Conner Avenue and I-96. The project has been on the table since the 1990s, and it has a bountiful share of vocal opponents

Perhaps in an attempt to quell some of those concerns, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), which would oversee the project, held a media roundtable Monday morning to outline details. Officials cast the same overtures they have since MT first dove into the proposal in a lengthy cover story in January 2013

As recounted in The Detroit News, a spokesperson for the department said, "That stretch of roadway has never been reconstructed. It's been patched and paved but never reconstructed. For the safety of the public, it just can't go on this way any longer. That's why it has been moved to the top of our priority list."

MDOT says the project would cost $1.9 billion in 2013 dollars, but, with an estimated 3 percent annual inflation rate over the next two decades, the price tag jumps to about $3 billion. That timespan corresponds to how long MDOT expects to have orange barrels splattered across the corridor: twenty years. The estimated completion date is late 2036. 

To finance the project, MDOT says the feds would pay 81.5 percent of the estimated $2.9 billion price tag, while the state would cover the remainder. The City of Detroit, through local road funding appropriated by the state, would cover 12.5 percent of Michigan's portion — roughly $70.68 million. 

Critics have long opposed a plan to add an additional lane in each direction of the highway, widening it from six to eight lanes in sum; MDOT now says it's still analyzing whether additional space is needed. As MT previously reported, the idea that congestion would be alleviated along I-94 as a result of an additional lane is a questionable claim, at best. 

That's because of a phenomenon known as "induced demand," which suggests additional capacity is eventually refilled in short order. An MDOT official told MT he understands the possibility of the long-term outcomes relate to induced demand, but contended the roadway needs improvements now. 

“I certainly understand the concept of induced demand — if you make a better road it’s going to bring more people,” project manager Terry Stepanski said. “But the fact is, is it’s not just induced demand, there’s actual real demand out there."

If you're interested in learning more about the project, MDOT is hosting an open house on July 14 from 9-11 a.m., and 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul located at 4800 Woodward Avenue in Detroit. A second open house will be held 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. on July 16 at Wayne County Community College's Eastern Campus, located at 5901 Conner in Detroit. 

Ryan Felton

Ryan Felton was born in 1990 and spent the majority of his childhood growing up in Livonia. In 2009, after a short stint at Eastern Michigan University, he moved to Detroit where he has remained ever since. After graduating from Wayne State University’s journalism program, he went on to work as a staff writer...
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