Macomb County officials are warning motorists to stay alert and drive carefully through work areas to keep highway workers safe as the long road construction season kicks off.
County Executive Mark Hackel and Roads Department Maintenance Supervisor Leo Ciavatta took to the streets along Mound Road in Sterling Heights on Thursday to remind drivers ahead of National Work Zone Awareness Week, which takes place from April 11 to 15.
Mound is the site of the $217 million Innovate Mound project, which will rebuild approximately nine miles of the Mound Road corridor in Warren and Sterling Heights.
“The construction season is underway and we strongly encourage drivers to obey traffic laws and speed limits in and around construction zones,” Hackel said in a press release. “While road crews carry out essential work, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that we all get home safely.”
The event included county road department officials.
“Our team works closely with local contractors and engineers to build some of the safest and most efficient roads in Michigan,” said Department of Highways Director Bryan Santo. “With the support of the motoring public, our goal is to repair the roads and bridges of Macomb County while keeping our work areas as safe as possible.”
In recent years in Macomb County, two road construction workers have lost their lives. Zach Morisette was killed in September 2020 while filling potholes along Interstate 94 in St. Clair Shores and Allen Craig of Dan’s Excavating died in October 2020 following an incident at Richmond.
In Michigan in 2020, there were 14 work zone fatalities in 11 crashes, 1,050 work zone injuries and 4,025 work zone crashes, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The number of road deaths across Michigan increased more than 10% in 2021, according to the state. Macomb County saw a nearly 50% increase in all traffic fatalities in 2021, with 55 from 37 in 2020, according to the Macomb County Traffic Safety Association.
To help keep the roads safe, the MCDR strongly encourages drivers to practice these driving tips:
• Plan ahead by leaving early and/or using an alternate route.
• Respect work area signs, cones, barrels, construction equipment and workers directing traffic.
• Slow down and obey reduced speed limits.
• Obey the right of way when passing work crews and vehicles parked along the shoulder with a flashing light.
• Avoid distractions, such as cell phone use, and keep your eyes on the road.
The county also plans to make $80 million in road, bridge and traffic improvements this year.
The construction program includes 12 major and local road projects and eight bridges and culverts, in addition to more than 20 asphalt resurfacing and concrete pavement repair projects under the ministry’s pavement preservation program. Three Macomb County bridges have also been selected by MDOT to receive funding for rehabilitation and major upgrades in 2022.
Several maintenance and modernization projects for traffic technologies and communication networks are also planned for this year.
Also included are six township residential streets under the Subdivision Reconstruction Program, which provides financial assistance to townships.
Hackel noted the key role of county road employees and highway workers.
“From major reconstruction to improving the safety and efficiency of our roads, these projects are critical to the ever-growing infrastructure needs of our community,” Hackel said. “We will continue to advocate for additional structural funding from our state and federal partners to ensure the more than $2 billion in needed road improvements in Macomb County are addressed.”
The Innovate Mound project from Hall Road (M-59) south to Interstate 696 started slowly last August and picked up speed this spring, with the two right-hand lanes closed in both directions north of 15 Mile Road to Hall in Sterling Heights. Work on the north end is expected to be completed this year and the approximately 15 mile section to I-696 will be completed next year. The last works will be completed in 2024.
Project innovations include improved connectivity by incorporating cutting-edge design and smart technology. It will include new roadway, drainage, curbs and approaches, traffic signal optimization, road widening, connected vehicle technology and fiber optic communications, improved non-motorized facilities and lighting energy efficient.
For a complete list of 2022 projects, maps and information, visit roads.macombgov.org. For more information on Work Zone Safety and Work Zone Awareness Week, visit nwzaw.org.