More work in “The Ditch”

The Detroit area has its share of interstates: I-75, I-94, I-96 and I-696. Throw in the M-10 (the Lodge) and the Davison Freeway (the first freeway in the country) and it becomes clear that urban planners believed the Motor City would need to move around a lot of cars, and maybe at a high rate of speed.

Our freeway system ranks up there with any other city’s. But the main reason is not because our freeways are so wonderfully designed and maintained. The reasonably smooth traffic flow on our freeways is due to our diffused population.

The city of Detroit, as you learned recently in the 2010 Census, is bleeding people. That means it’s bleeding motorists. Three of our interstates, I-75, I-94 and I-94 pass through the city of Detroit. Over a quarter-million people have moved out of the city since those freeways were designed. Many of those people have stayed around here, but at least they’re not all bunched up in one urban area. Believe me, people who drive daily in New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles think we have it made.

One of SE Michigan’s interstates is always under construction, if not all of them. Hopefully the work gets spread out. If there are orange pylons on I-75 in southeast Michigan, it’d be nice if the next patch of repair on I-75 is located somewhere far enough north that road workers are toiling in the shadow of an “Elk Crossing” sign.

This spring, it looks like I-696 (“The Ditch”) is getting the brunt of the work. Here’s this update from the Michigan Department of Transportation: In Oakland and Macomb counties, eastbound I-696 will have a daily single lane closure from Mound Road to Gratiot Avenue for retaining wall construction. The single lane closure will begin at 5 a.m. and end by 3 p.m. daily and is expected to last until mid-June.

Did you catch that last part? Yes, mid-June.

Start your engines, crotch the coffee

What’s the opposite of heaven? Well, that’s where you’ll find the guy who’s lucky enough to not only work nights but still commute during rush hour.
It’s not that unlikely of a scenario. I’m sure I have co-sufferers. You are familiar with the saying “It’s happy hour somewhere.” Same goes with rush hour.

I live in Grosse Pointe and work in Mount Clemens. I head off to work at around 4 p.m. and take Eight Mile Road to my beloved Interstate 94. Truth be told, in this blog more distain than praise will be heaped on that ancient artery.

As I merge onto 94 I join a race in progress. It’s like a relay race. I almost expect that a fellow driver might hand me a baton.
I merge, accelerate to the pace of the crowd and generally try to act like I’ve been driving with them the whole time. No one likes late arrivals. If it’s a race then I feel like one of those marathon runners who hops on the subway and rejoins the front of the pack.

I am joining drivers who, for the most part, work in Detroit and are headed home to some far-flung suburb. They’re not afraid to drive a bit. Maybe they live some place you’ve never heard of. How about Clyde Township? I have a co-worker who lives there. You should visit him. He and his far-flung neighbors are having a war. I’ll just say this: The war involves mailboxes, snowmobiles and guinea hens.

I don’t want to go to war with my fellow drivers. I do not have my game face on. I am, however,  leaning over and messing with my satellite radio. And I am repeating my mantra: These other drivers should realize that I am in more of a hurry than they are. They are going home to kiss the dog and pet the wife. I am special. I am headed to work.