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Published: Monday, 8/4/2008

Perrysburg woman tries to ticket MDOT for long traffic delay

Carol Greenberg of Perrysburg, with her cat Sammy, estimates
she sat in traffi c for 50 minutes while driving home
from a veterinary visit in a northern Detroit suburb.
Carol Greenberg of Perrysburg, with her cat Sammy, estimates she sat in traffi c for 50 minutes while driving home from a veterinary visit in a northern Detroit suburb.

When Carol Greenberg got stuck in a work-zone backup on southbound I-275 at its merge with I-75 in Monroe County late last month, she did more than just fume about it.

First, she sent the Michigan Department of Transportation an e-mail complaint. Then the Perrysburg resident did something many motorists probably consider but rarely, if ever, do.

Mrs. Greenberg sent MDOT a $16 bill for the gasoline she figured she'd wasted idling in traffic.

"Thousands of vehicles from both Interstates, including mine, sat an estimated 50 minutes, wasting thousands of dollars worth of $4-per-gallon gasoline, belching tons of emissions into the atmosphere," she wrote.

Rob Morosi, a department spokesman in Detroit, said, "We usually get damage claims about stones kicked up from the roadway or overspray from painting I have never heard of anyone being compensated for the loss of gasoline."

Mrs. Greenberg said in an interview that the delay was doubly unpleasant for her Maine coon cat, Sammy, who howled through the entire experience in a pet carrier in the back seat.

Mrs. Greenberg and Sammy were on their way home July 23 from a specialty veterinarian in Southfield, Mich., where the cat underwent allergy testing. All the way down from that northerly Detroit suburb, Mrs. Greenberg drove past temporary signs estimating the remaining time it would take to get to I-75 on I-275 - signs posted to help motorists detouring around a portion of I-75 in downtown Detroit that is closed for reconstruction - along with permanent traffic-advisory message boards.

But not one of those signs warned of the delay caused by a work zone on I-75 in Frenchtown Township that had two of three southbound lanes closed, Mrs. Greenberg said. The first indication of trouble was a sea of brake lights that appeared ahead just before she reached Exit 2, the Telegraph Road exit on I-275 - "but I couldn't get over to the ramp before I got past it."

With all those signs, she wondered, couldn't MDOT have done a better job alerting motorists about the delay they faced before they got stuck in it?

Mr. Morosi said the work area involved an emergency repair to a culvert that had visibly settled that morning under the freeway's right lane, and there wasn't time to get notice out before crews went out to repaint lane stripes to shift traffic off the problem spot and start repairs.

Even before getting a response from MDOT, Mrs. Greenberg estimated her chance of getting her "bill" paid was zero - "I just sent it in to vent about it" - and in that regard, the state didn't surprise her.

"It is not MDOT's policy to reimburse motorists for lost time, wages, or gas when traveling through or near a work zone. Please understand, if we paid out for one, we would have to pay out for all and that is simply not feasible," MDOT's Kari Arend wrote to Mrs. Greenberg.

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

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