M-59 Construction Information / Excellent MDOT Customer Service

Earlier this week I noticed that electronic traffic information signs have been placed along M-59 on my route home from work. The signs are a bit vague, indicating that construction is to begin sometime around the end of July, but not saying anything more. I also noticed that some utility poles were being moved outwards from the highway, so that got me thinking that perhaps M-59 is finally being widened.

(For those that aren’t familiar with this area, M-59 narrows from three lanes to two, then widens back to three a few miles later. This bottleneck is essentially leftovers from a much earlier version of the highway, because while both ends expanded, the middle section hadn’t been touched for a while. This obviously leads to an almost-daily backup.)

To find out what was going on I consulted the websites for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and both the the Macomb County and Oakland County Road Commissions. None of these websites had the info, so to the phone I went. A few calls and transfers made yesterday afternoon left me at the voicemail box of Steve Stramsak, a Traffic and Safety Engineer with MDOT, where I left a message asking about the road and leaving my email address.

This morning I received a very nice, detailed response, explaining exactly what is happening with the road:

Hey Steve,

I did receive your voicemail yesterday wondering what we will be doing along M-59
from Crooks to Ryan.

Work will be starting soon (probably around the first of August) on a project to
widen M-59 between Crooks and Ryan to 3 lanes each way. All the bridges along the
stretch will be rehabilitated - the bridges at John R, Dequindre, and Ryan will be
widened to accommodate the extra freeway width. The pavement will also be
reconstructed along M-59, as well as on the ramps in the Dequindre and Rochester
interchanges. The work will take place from August 2009 through November 2010 in
general, with some landscaping work occurring in spring 2011.

From a traffic standpoint, we will generally be keeping two lanes of traffic open
each way during peak periods. Nights and weekends will see restrictions down to a
single lane of traffic each direction, especially this summer and fall as we do some
shoulder upgrading. After this fall, M-59 will have 2 lanes open each way the vast
majority of the time.

Ramps in both the Dequindre and the Rochester interchanges will be closed at certain
times next summer, but you would be able to exit M-59 at either Rochester or
Dequindre in either direction at all times. Similarly, you would be able to access
the freeway in either directions at one of the interchanges at all times.

Let me know if you need any further information.

Steve

Steve Stramsak, P.E.
Michigan Department of Transportation
Oakland TSC Traffic & Safety Engineer
2300 Dixie Hwy, Suite 300
Waterford, MI 48328
Phone: (248) 451-2405
Fax: (248) 451-0125
Email: stramsaks@michigan.gov

This is excellent, making my last two interactions with individuals at MDOT rather nice experiences, where my questions were quite thoroughly answered. Curious as to whether or not there is information available about how the result of this work will affect traffic in the area, I asked the following:

Steve,

Thanks very much, that precisely answers my question.

There is one other thing I'm interested in, but which is more of a
curiosity than anything else: Were there any studies done showing how
congestion is anticipated to change along M-59 after this work is
complete?

I personally would suspect that the backups between Squirrel and Rochester
will decrease, and the backup just before VanDyke road will increase.
However, because of the number of people exiting at Dequinder and Mound
the backup at VanDyke will not be nearly as large as what currently occurs
further west.

Again, not knowing much about traffic engineering this is just a curiosity
on my part, but I thought I'd ask.

Thanks again!

-Steve

Again, a direct, informative reply:

Steve,

We did do a "capacity analysis" along the Crooks to Ryan corridor to make sure what
we're building will be sufficient to handle traffic for the next 20-30 years....but
as far as outside of those limits, we did not do any studies that I am aware of.

From my expertise and from driving this corridor for the past few years (I work on
the Waterford/Pontiac border and live in Shelby Twp), I am expecting the following
results once the project is done:

* Minimal backups WB in the AM rush and EB in the PM rush unless there is an
incident (a crash or bad weather).
* Elimination of the current backups near Crooks Rd in PM peak due to the
bottleneck from 3 to 2 lanes (this is generally the cause of the sluggish traffic
through the Rochester and Dequindre interchanges)
* Reduction of east-west traffic in southern Rochester Hills (specifically Auburn,
Hamlin, and South Blvds)
* The backup near Van Dyke will still exist as the area is the end of the freeway
section.

I have been noticing that the AM peak has gotten much smaller....as it used to be
stop and go from Dequindre to Crooks on WB when I got on around 6:30 AM. I haven't
seen backups more than about once a month this year - even when school was in
session.

In short, things should flow much better along this portion of M-59 once the project
is done.

Let me know if there's anything else I can answer for you.

Steve

8 Comments

  1. Cynthia Allan:

    THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!! I was wondering the same thing, as I, too, travel that road every AM/PM, and this more than answered my questions! Very happy to hear about this upcoming construction. I’ve always wondered why the narrowing to 2 lanes. Yippee!!

  2. Maria P.:

    Finally, answers to all my questions! I’ve been trying for days to find any information about this construction project, and like you stated it was very hard to come by. As soon as I saw the dreaded construction signs go up, I was worried about traveling on M-59. This information has cleared up the mystery of the project. I’m no longer afraid to travel that way. Likewise, I can’t wait to have full use of the added lanes to alleviate the current bottleneck in that area. Also glad to hear someone else say they saw utility poles being moved–my husband thought I was making it up. I’m printing this off for him and adding my handwritten message (in big red letters): “I told you so!” Thank you so much!

  3. c0nsumer:

    Cynthia and Maria: You’re welcome. I’m really glad you found it useful. While my original intention was to post about the great experience with Steve over there at MDOT, it’s looking like the information about the roads has made this a rather popular post.

  4. Gary Pringle:

    Great response Steve,
    I was wondering if they plan to have a center wall along the new stretch. I also notice sewer installation on sections of the new road while other sections had small diameter drainage lines. Why would only sections of the new road have this done?

  5. Bev:

    Thank you for writing this, it is very helpful. I just bought a house on the “east side” (past Van Dyke) and am traveling the M59 route on my way to work for the first time. I can’t wait until Nov ’10!!!! Hope it’s still on schedule

  6. Betty:

    Wondering if project is on schedule to wrap up in November? Any update to share?

  7. c0nsumer:

    Betty: Sorry, I don’t know for sure. It looks to me like things are on track, but that only comes from my driving this route daily and seeing that construction seems to be progressing very well.

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