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VIDEO: 2020 was a year of overcoming challenges for MDOT and partners

December 17, 2020 -- The challenge-filled 2020 construction season is winding down. A new video produced by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) covers how MDOT and industry partners were able to adapt and overcome many obstacles to deliver vital transportation projects and continue working toward the goal of providing the highest quality integrated transportation services for economic benefit and improved quality of life. 

COVID-19 forced staff and contractors to make several adjustments, including wearing masks on job sites, improving cleaning techniques, and changing how construction workers did their jobs, which meant changing the way they do business.

More than 100 projects were completed, improving the transportation system across the state. Notable projects include the I-96/I-196 flip project in Grand Rapids, rebuilding the 100th Street bridge over US-131 in Kent County, the I-75 modernization project in Oakland County, rebuilding US-131 in St. Joseph County, and rebuilding M-28 in Alger County. This successful construction year was made possible by the work and support of all MDOT employees and its partners in the contractor community.

"Thank you. Thanks to the clients, thanks to the inspectors and all the people that we worked for," Team Elmer's Communications Director Tonya Wildfong said. "Just their ability to retool and come up with those processes to keep everyone safe, themselves safe, the client safe, the public safe, I just can't say enough good things and I can't thank everyone enough."

2020 wasn't just a year of road building and planned maintenance. Flooding in Midland and Gladwin counties meant MDOT and its partners had to work quickly to fix numerous roads that were washed away or damaged.

"We were very happy to see the bridge get completed this fast," Edenville resident Matt Miner said about the M-30 bridge repairs over the Tittabawassee River. "We were kind of concerned with winter coming up that we'd be stuck dealing with the rough transportation in and out of the house, so having the bridge be open is just fantastic."

"This is people rising to a huge challenge and actually working miracles with their unbelievable talent and hard work and perseverance," Michigan State Transportation Commissioner Michael Hayes said. "I could not be more impressed than I am with the employees of MDOT."

Rebuilding US-131 in St. Joseph County meant several changes for local drivers and commuters, as well as commercial and nonmotorized traffic.

"The end result is exactly what we were going for when we designed it with MDOT's experts," Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christy Trammell said. "It was designed to both change the aesthetics as well as the number one feature - safety."

In Lansing, I-496 was rebuilt from the I-96/I-69 interchange to Lansing Road. This was the first project to benefit from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Rebuilding Michigan program aimed at rebuilding the state highways and bridges that are critical to the state's economy and carry the most traffic.

"This construction season and the height of the COVID-19 pandemic has looked like one that we've never seen before, but these men and women showed up to work, they sacrificed and put their lives, in many ways, on the line to ensure that this project has been done with fidelity," said State Rep. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing.

Originally built in the 1950s, the M-204 bridge over the Leelanau Narrows in Leelanau County was widened and updated with a new protected pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists, making it safer for all users on both sides of the bridge.

"People love to leave their car on one side and just walk all the way around, and they were doing it in that tiny little walk space, but now there's beautiful walkways on both sides," Leland Township Supervisor Susan Och said. "Now this brings our village together and it addresses what our village is now, not what it was."

The multi-year project to rebuild and resurface M-28 in Munising includes a new roundabout at the intersection of Highway 58, a shared-use path, utility upgrades, and streetscape improvements.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime project," Greater Munising Bay Partnership and Alger County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dr. Kathy Reynolds said. "With all our increased visitation that we have, and it looks like we might have had over a million people this summer, it's imperative that we keep traffic flowing. The businesses downtown like it, too, because it's making it easier for people to get to their business and spend money."

MDOT and state leaders tip their caps to the hard-working men and women who faced and overcame unprecedented obstacles to keep Michigan moving forward through it all.

"I have always been humbled to be amongst the ranks of our state employees, and MDOT workers are some of the most dedicated state employees that we have," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. "Showing up every single day, even putting themselves on the line to improve the quality of life and safety for other Michiganders, and I think it's really important right now that we recognize the inherent risks in that and as a state do everything we can to keep people safe as they do this hard work of keeping the rest of us safe. We have a tendency in the midst of COVID to think of our front line as nurses and doctors, but every single day our road workers are putting themselves on the line and I think it's important that all of us do our part to keep them safe."