MDOT Shares I-696 Plaza Reconstruction Plans in Oak Park

ScottWrightadTOPMDOT Shares I-696 Plaza MBREW draft oneReconstruction Plans in Oak Park

(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 30, 2016)

Oak Park, MI – Fencing has gone up and workers have begun removing vegetation and equipment from The Church Street overpass/plaza over I-696 in Oak Park, also known as the Z03 plaza.

The State of Michigan is funding a complete reconstruction of the plaza to help with drainage issues and to give the landscaping a better foundation in which to thrive.  The bridge below the plaza is not part of the project.

The City of Oak Park and Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) held a community ChamberAd_01open house at City Hall on Tuesday about the project, which is expected to be completed by mid-November tree planting may take place this year or the next depending on how the weather cooperates with the rest of their plans.

Work includes “removing everything above the bridge beams, including all of the dirt, sidewalks, parking lot, Church Street, trees, lights and the play structure.  A concrete cap will be constructed on top of the existing bridge beams, which will include a waterproofing layer.  A drainage tile system will be installed on top of the waterproofed cap prior to placement of a special soil mix that will allow water to drain through it.

“New sidewalks, parking lot, lighting, Church Street pavement, play structure, and landscaping and trees will be constructed and installed to complete the plaza work,” states a pamphlet about the project.

The plaza is closed during the reconstruction and pedestrians will be directed to the Z02 royal_servicesplaza, which is west of Z03.

I-696 will have daily non-peak hour and weekend lane closures in effect intermittently during the project, and all Church Street traffic will be detoured via 10 Mile Road, Coolidge Street and Lincoln Street.

The playground structure has not been picked out yet, but the area around the structure will have a permeable rubber surface instead of wood chips as in the past.  The plaza will also have trails and features that are more accessible.

The drainage system is the main reason for the reconstruction.  In the wintertime snow would melt and seep through the surface of the bridge, forming some icicles of various sizes.  Falling ice has caused damage to an unknown number of vehicles on the freeway.

The new drainage system will prevent ice, and it will send part of the diverted water into a rain RB_04garden.

“The raingarden is exciting,” said Nanette Alton, a landscape engineer with MDOT.  “Sustainability is a big topic right now and the raingarden can be used to teach kids about the environment.  And it’s good for the drainage styem.  The ideas is you put plants in a lightweight medium and when it rains or the water goes in the soil absorbs the water like a sponge and it helps the plants grow.”

The plaza, constructed in the late 1980s, was a unique structure that Oak Park insisted be built so as not to divide the Orthodox Jewish community from their schools and places of worship, according to MDOT Historian Lloyd Baldwin.  “The freeway would have created a trench, which in that faith is symbolic of a divide,” Baldwin said.

The plaza contains 52,000 yards of soil, which is equal to about 10,500 typical dump trucks wrightADJENtallfull. Some of that will be reused and some will be replaced with “CU Structural Soil,” a patented creation of Cornell University.  “CU-Structural Soil™ (also known as CU-Soil™) was developed at Cornell University as a way to safely bear pavement loads after compaction and yet still allow root penetration and vigorous tree growth. It was patented and trademarked under the name ‘CU-Soil™’ to insure quality control,” states the Cornell website.

“I am encouraged by new projects like this.  I would like to see more investment in transportation projects by the State.  Transportation is an economic development issue.  It is critical that all modes of transportation are considered and implemented in the Metro Detroit area,” said City Manager Eric Tungate.

Residents who attended seemed most concerned about the cost, and were relieved to find that it is a State of Michigan project and not a locally-funded expense.

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