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Published: Saturday, 8/4/2007

U.S. 23 project extended

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Problems with the quality of materials have pushed a U.S. 23 repair project in northern Monroe County nearly two months behind schedule, casting doubt on whether work will be finished this year.

The delay also has unraveled state plans to reopen freeway lanes for University of Michigan football games this fall.

U.S. 23 is the main route to Ann Arbor and a primary route to Detroit Metropolitan-Wayne County Airport from Toledo and other southerly points.

Traffic moving through the construction zone can be delayed as much as 15 to 20 minutes.

During a project update meeting Thursday, contractor Ajax Paving of Troy, Mich., predicted it will shift lanes on the repair job between Dundee and Milan no sooner than the end of August, Kari Arend, a Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman, said yesterday.

The original schedule for the $11.7 million project, which began May 1, was for the lane switch to occur in early July. But road repairs and paving have been delayed by continuing quality deficiencies in construction materials that Ajax has submitted to MDOT for testing, Ms. Arend said.

The contractor s having problems with their material, she said. They re not getting approved mixes out there, and we re not going to let them use substandard material and then have to replace it.

Mark Johnston, an Ajax official to whom an inquiry to the company was referred yesterday, did not return the call.

The project involves repairing and resurfacing six miles of U.S. 23 between the Macon River, north of Dundee and the Plank Road interchange in Milan. Drainage improvements and pump-house rehabilitation at the Ann Arbor Railroad overpass just north of Cone Road are included, as is lengthening interchange ramps at Cone and Plank.

Under a separate contract managed by the railroad, the railroad bridge was raised by 15 inches last month to improve vehicle clearance beneath it.

The bridge-raising was finished on time, Ms. Arend said, but completion of the drainage work underneath it is being delayed by Ajax s paving problem, and that s the main reason that lane closings may remain in place during UM football season.

Can we get lanes reopened on the weekends? For most of the work zone, yes, but you re still going to have that pinch point at the railroad bridge, Ms. Arend said.

Michigan has home football games scheduled for every Saturday in September and October, except Sept. 29 and Oct. 20.

The project had been scheduled for October completion. MDOT and Ajax officials have scheduled additional meetings to discuss what can be done to finish construction before winter, Ms. Arend said.

In the meantime, Ann Arbor-bound football fans and anyone else headed north on U.S. 23 beyond Dundee should plan on using other routes, such as I-275 and I-94.

Contact David Patch at:dpatch@theblade.comor 419-724-6094.



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