M-24 construction project still slated for 2020
By Jim Newell
ORION TWP. – It will be slow-going on Baldwin Road for another summer.
The Baldwin Road widening and streetscape project will not be finished this year, as originally planned, and will continue into summer 2020.
The delay is “due to weather and complexities related to utility relocation and right of way acquisition,” according to information from Craig Bryson, public information officer for the Road Commission for Oakland County.
That’s bad news for motorists: coupled with the Baldwin project is the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Lapeer Road (M-24) resurfacing and reconstruction project that will begin next spring. Baldwin and Lapeer roads are the two major north-south thoroughfares in Orion Township.
Officials from Orion Township and the Village of Lake Orion met with MDOT officials earlier this month to see about getting the M-24 project delayed, but MDOT plans on going forward with project as scheduled, said Lake Orion Village Manager Joe Young.
The M-24 project will extend from Goldengate Street in Orion Township north to Harriet Street in Oxford Township, encompassing the villages of Lake Orion and Oxford, with road resurfacing in the Orion portion and complete reconstruction of the road through Oxford.
Lori Swanson, projects and contracts administration engineer MDOT, has said the entire M-24 project is estimated to cost $23.5 million and will go out for bids for construction contractors in December 2019.
The $50 million Baldwin Road project involves widening and reconstructing Baldwin Road from Morgan to Waldon, including the construction of five roundabouts.
“This is a massive project, but our intention was to have construction completed by the end of this year,” stated RCOC Managing Director Dennis Kolar. “However, that is not going to happen. That is the reality. We’re not looking to place blame, and we’re still committed to getting as much work done this year as possible.”
“We’ve had some heated meetings with those in charge of the Baldwin Road project because we don’t feel like the communication has been great,” said Orion Twp. Supervisor Chris Barnett during the township’s July 15 board meeting. “The road project is way behind schedule. That’s the best way to put it.”
Barnett said the township has been told that the goal is to finish as much construction as possible on the northbound lanes this year, and begin work on the southbound lanes next spring.
“It’s frustrating. I’ve had a lot of discussions with the road commission, but it is what it is and so we’re going to make the best of it,” Barnett said. “The goal will be to try to get as much of the road construction done this year, but stay tuned.”
Two lanes, one north one south, will always be open to traffic during construction, Barnett said. “Like you’ve always had on Baldwin. So, that’s what we’re trying to tell people. Hey, we’ve lived with it like this for the last 135 years or however long that road’s been there, it’s the same. So, please continue to visit our businesses on Baldwin Road.”
The Baldwin Road project was intended to take place in two phases, with the first section, from Morgan to Gregory, taking place last year, and the second phase, from Gregory to Waldon, taking place this year.
However, it was always intended that landscaping and other restoration work would take place next year, resulting in continuous lane closures through approximately the middle of next year.
“The first phase was extended into (2019) after contractors locked out the Operating Engineers statewide last fall, causing many road-construction projects to stop for about three weeks. The lockout was followed by a considerable amount of rain, which further delayed work last year. This year’s work has also faced a number of challenges,” according to the road commission.
“This is an incredibly complex project that requires the coordination of numerous entities in an intricately choreographed process,” Kolar said. “The construction zone carries a heavy amount of traffic in a tight area populated by many businesses. If any one of the steps was delayed, it would affect many subsequent steps. In this case, several key steps were delayed.
“We made every effort to have the least impact possible on the residents, motorists and businesses in the community,” Kolar said. “We chose not to close the road, which would have ensured the project moved more quickly, because of the impact of doing so on motorists and area businesses. As a result, the schedule was so tight that any blip would knock it out of sync. Unfortunately, we then had the perfect storm of bad weather, delayed utilities, last year’s labor shutout, extended right of way acquisition issues and more. That is the unfortunate reality of this situation.”