Looking Back: Construction affects campus commute


OP Archives

Oakland students in 2004 were plagued by the same construction problems students face today. At the time, three new construction projects were planned along I-75.

The trend of deeming some months of Michigan “construction season” has become popular due to all the roads that always end up needing to be fixed. Construction issues especially impacted Oakland University students in 2004. 

At the beginning of the 2004-2005 school year, the plans for three new construction projects along I-75 were becoming an inconvenience for all students.

According to Louise Schilling, Troy mayor at the time, one of the ideas for this project had been in the works for 20 years. The goal of the interchange for Crooks Road, I-75 and Long Lake Road was to make the road wider to add a fourth lane each way coming from 8 Mile Road to M-59.

Some people disagreed with the construction projects and ended up forming a group called Stop Interchange Now (SIN). They ended up collecting around 10,000 signatures from people in opposition to the plans. The group then was planning to present them to the Troy City Council, in hopes of getting a non-binding advisory question added to the ballot in November.

Schilling tried to explain to the group that it was not up to the city to make the decision of whether the construction plans go through. 

“It is a state and federal project and the city just purchases the right of way for it,” Schilling said. 

SIN was not the only organization trying to stop the construction from happening. The White Chapel Cemetery was upset because the cemetery would end up losing one acre of property in the process because it runs along both Long Lake Road and I-75. 

The second project that was planned was a long-term portation plan for southeast Michigan: the widening of I-75 to four lanes each way for an 18 mile stretch, from 8 Mile Road to M-59, but this project was announced not to happen until 2008.

“We can’t afford to expand I-75 right now,” said Tom Barwin, then-Ferndale city manager. “We have plenty of other roads that need to be fixed first.”  

The other project started on Sept. 15, 2004, at the intersection of University Drive and Squirrel Road. Many students began complaining that the construction slowed down their drive to campus because this ended up closing down the main entrance of the campus. The students, faculty and staff who commuted had to find another entrance to campus in the meantime. 

“There are many projects that go on in the city,” said Deputy Director of Public Services Ron Melchert when questioned about the timing of the project. “This is the way we managed to get the scope of the work — that’s the way it fell.”

Melchert already began to warn students about construction projects that would happen the next year (2005). While some of these projects may have seemed annoying to some students, they ended up making traffic flow easier in future years to come.

This spring, the construction carried on around OU with East Walton Boulevard having the inside lane in each direction closed for median restoration work, additional changes to curbs and gutters, and repaving the roads.

Construction continues on I-75 with lane closures to repair overpasses, adding a little time to the commute for students who use University Drive to come and go from campus.