Construction to begin on the University Drive interchange

It gets funnier every year  the joke that Michigan really only has two seasons: winter and construction.

This year will be no different as the city of Auburn Hills is soon to break ground on plans to reconstruct the University Drive interchange at I-75.

With more than two thirds of Oakland University students commuting and only 17 percent of students living on campus, according to, the impacts of this construction project are sure to be felt far and wide.

Lori Swanson, a project manager with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) who is overseeing the University Drive project, said that reconstruction of the interchange was a necessity.

“We had to shut the bridge down [last year] because there were some critical failures and we’ve put in some temporary supports,” Swanson said.

The configuration of the new interchange will be a “diverging diamond,” Swanson said, and it will be the first one in the state of Michigan.

According to, the diverging diamond interchange has been most successfully used in France.

The Federal Highway Administration has been campaigning for stateside use of this type of interchange due to its congestion-alleviating characteristics and increased driver safety.

“It’s going to be really unique,” Swanson said. “You’ll actually cross over and drive on the wrong side of the road.”

While driving euro-style against the normal flow of traffic may come across as confusing, Swanson assured that it’s exactly the opposite.

She said that driving on the wrong side of the road allows for free-flowing left turns off the freeway with no opposing traffic, meaning there are no “conflict points” where drivers have to cross over opposing lanes of traffic.

“Other states that are using these [interchanges] have found that there’s about a 40 percent reduction of traffic crashes,” Swanson said. “It’s supposed to be a really safe and really efficient interchange.”

Swanson said that all traffic within the interchange will be moving at 25 miles per hour, allowing for a safe pace at which to adjust to the new road configuration.


Within the next two weeks, construction will start on University Drive with excavation and some preliminary maneuvers to prepare for the real work, scheduled to start at the end of June.

Traffic across the bridge will be sustained until this point.

“While we have the bridge out of service, we’ll be maintaining the ramps,” Swanson said.

Students on the east side of the interchange (that’s OU) can get on northbound I-75 and get off to eastbound University Drive, and vice-versa on the west side of the interchange.

Swanson said detours will be used, taking advantage of local roads like Walton, Opdyke, and Squirrel to bypass the construction.

“The idea is to build the bridge, open all the ramps and get everything connected before Christmas of this year,” she said.

On students’ side

Swanson said that MDOT has been in contact with OU, specifically Media Relations Director Brian Bierley, in an aggressive effort to make sure that students are kept well informed during the duration of the construction project.

“We’re putting a team together,” Bierley said of the University Communications and Marketing department, who are working to ensure a smooth flow of information from MDOT to campus administration and students.

Bierley said that social media will play a huge role in updating students with to-the-minute traffic conditions, road closures and general travel tips, with the help of Colleen Campbell, OU’s digital public relations manager.

“We’ve been assured that the project will be finished on time and that it’s going to make it a lot more convenient to get to campus,” Bierley said.