M-6 will close on July 8, but only the eastbound side

WYOMING, Mich. -- The pavement on M-6 has been crumbling between Wilson Avenue and I-196 for years. When the Michigan Department of Transportation announced the deteriorating pavement will be replaced, everyone -- including MDOT -- thought M-6 will be completely closed.

Hold the phone.

Beginning July 8 at 7:30 a.m., only eastbound M-6 will be closed from I-196 to Wilson Avenue. When that part of the project is done, the westbound side of M-6 will be closed from Wilson Avenue to I-196.

"There might be a little overlap where both (eastbound and westbound) are closed for a couple of days or maybe a week or so," said MDOT's John Richard, "but eastbound closes first and then westbound. And then the whole thing will wrap up mid-November."

"It’s a lot better scenario than we initially planned," remarked Russ Henckel, assistant director of public works for the City of Wyoming. After all, under the initial plan, local traffic would have increased because both eastbound and westbound drivers might use local streets as detours.

For traffic heading from one side of the Grand Rapids area to the other -- so-called "through traffic" that would use M-6 to bypass downtown Grand Rapids -- the official detour is to use I-196, US-131, and I-96 to bypass the construction.

But cities like Wyoming and Grandville have had to anticipate the freeway closure. "We did some resurfacing on 44th Street," said Henckel. "We’ve worked with MDOT on doing some crack sealing in some other areas of the city, namely along Wilson Avenue where we anticipate traffic will relocate."

All of this was made necessary by concrete pavement that began to crumble a few years back, many years before it should have.

"MDOT did not expect this pavement to be in this condition at this point in time," said Transportation Service Center Manager Leigh Ann Mikesell at MDOT's Muskegon office, which will oversee the project.

Anyone who lives in Michigan is familiar with the freeze-thaw cycle, where water gets into pavement, expands when it freezes, and erodes pavement. While it results in potholes every winter and spring, it also gradually eats away at concrete. But the concrete on M-6 was expected to last another 10 to 15 years, said Mikesell.

What happened?

Start with what goes into concrete: "It’s a mixture. It’s rocks, sand, water, cement and air," said Mikesell. Yes, air. And the right amount of air in the concrete lets the water get in, expand and freeze and thaw without doing too much damage.

"This pavement doesn’t have enough air in it."

So the freeze-thaw cycle started to eat away at the pavement, especially at the most vulnerable part: the joints between sections of poured concrete. And the deterioration on M-6 between Wilson Avenue and I-196 was accelerating. So MDOT decided to replace the pavement, but "the project was scheduled for 2018," said Mikesell. "But after last winter, and we saw how much more the pavement had deteriorated, we decided we better do something this year instead of wait one more year and one more winter."

The fix will cost $9 million. Construction will be finished in mid-November.

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