Photo: Stephanie Davis / WWJ

MDOT Discusses Plans For Flex Lanes, Metered Ramps On I-96

MDOT is doing what it can to ease congestion on the freeway.

August 07, 2019 - 9:42 pm

NOVI, Mich. (WWJ) -- If you've ever been stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic along I-96 in western Oakland County during rush hour, you're not alone.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is doing what it can to ease the congestion on I-96 between I-275 and Kent Lake Road. MDOT help a public meeting Wednesday evening to discuss its plans for bringing flex lanes and metered ramps along that stretch of freeway.

Flex lanes will allow commuters to use the median inside shoulder as a temporary third travel lane during the morning and evening rush hours that see heavy traffic heading to and from the Detroit area. After the peak hours, the lanes will be typically closed.

MDOT plans to use electronic signs above all lanes of traffic -- a green arrow will denote when a lane is open, while a red X will show when it is closed. The flex route system will also allow officials to use two lanes of traffic when a crash or other incident closes a lane.

The whole idea is to ease congestion during peak traffic times, but the flex lanes could also be used as an additional traveling lane when one of the permanent lanes is closed because of a crash or other incident.

There is only one flex route system used in the state -- along US-23 between Brighton and Ann Arbor.

Robert Marz, a senior intelligent transportation systems project manager with MDOT, says construction on the flex lanes is set to start in late 2020 or early 2021 and should be completed in the first quarter of 2022.

In addition to the flex lanes, MDOT plans to institute metered on-ramps at four locations along that stretch of freeway.

Metering will be in effect at the same time the flex lanes are in use, converting the ramp to two lanes with two aletnating traffic lights, signaling to drivers when it's their turn to merge onto the freeway,

"What that will do is slow down how many vehicles can enter the freeway and kind of limit it, so that ultimately, it takes longer for the freeway to get congested," Marz said.

Steve Schaeffer, of Brighton, attended the meeting to see what MDOT’s proposal is all about. He says the idea is creative, but he’s skeptical.

"Until phase 2 is complete, which will take it all the way to US-23, that area, when it ends at Kent Lake Road to Milford Road, is going to be a nightmare," he said.

The project is estimated to cost around $100 million. The installation of flex lanes cost significantly less than installing an entirely new lane.