Over $100 Million To Be Spent On Two Massive Projects In Pittsfield Township Over The Next Two Years

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Image Credit: Pittsfield Township

Over a hundred million dollars worth of infrastructure improvements are in the works in Pittsfield Township.

Michigan Avenue is about to see a bunch of changes to it not only to fix the surface and improve traffic flow, but also to avoid a potentially disastrous problem involving the sewer running bellow both it and US23. Earlier this year, Pittsfield Township’s Director of Utilities and Municipal Services Craig Lyons came to the Board of Trustees with a $30 million proposal to improve Pittsfield Township’s sewer system and remove a major vulnerability with the main sewage flow route.

“When he said $30 million, I practically fell out of my chair,” Trustee Edwards-Brown told the Sun Times News in an interview after the meeting.

The problem with it is not just that it is aging and eroding, but also where it is located. Because the sewer runs bellow both Michigan Avenue and US23, it has to dip down very deep into the ground, meaning that if that section should ever break, it would be a giant, expensive mess, simply because it is under a busy freeway and it is so hard to get to. Lyons plan is to block off and abandon that tunnel completely, replacing it with a new tunnel further south, under Textile Road.

The problem with the current layout is that it results in stagnant pools, which allows for the buildup of gas from the waste, which causes erosion and occasionally collapses. The goal of the redesign is to eliminate this and allow for multiple routes for the waste to go to be treated.

Because this doesn’t area doesn’t have on and off ramps, it won’t need to be as deep, according to Lyons. And by placing it there, the system will be able to add some new tunnels to increase the number of ways sewage can flow, reducing wear and tear and eliminating choke points should something go wrong.

“We don’t have a choice. It’s a matter of when,” Edwards-Brown said. “If we wait until it begins to malfunction, and becomes an emergency situation, we’d really be in trouble.”

The Board of Trustees authorized a $1,716,900 budget for engineering design services with Stantec Consulting Michigan Inc., Wednesday evening. Stantec, which declined to comment on this article, predicted in its engineering proposal
late last month that the project would have to be done in three phases.

Image Credit: Stantec & Pittsfield Township. This image has been cropped to zoom in on the map, to make the plan clearer.

The current plan is to abandon and block off the aging sewer under Michigan Avenue and US23, as well as to replace the pump stations at Ashford, Meadow View and Platt Roads and replace them with a gravity-feed system. This is basically a way to arrange the pipes so that gravity simply forces the confluent along.

Next, the plan is to rehabilitate the 7,440 foot long Michigan Avenue Sewer on the east side of Carpenter Road. Having to fix the deepest part of the sewer, under US23, is a nightmare Lyon is trying to avoid. To avoid that, the plan is to improve and extend the Warner Creek lift station and extend the sewer to Textile Road.

Lyons is also planning to remove three of the four sewage lift stations. These are machines used to elevate material in sewage from one level to another. By replacing them with a simple gravity-fed arrangement, stagnation of the decaying material would be reduced, slowing the resulting build up of hydrogen sulfide, which erodes the tunnels and can lead to their collapse. And of course if the lift stations are replaced, the carbon footprint of the system would go down and it would not be vulnerable to stalling if there is a power failure. The fourth lift station would itself be moved, although a new location has not been decided on yet.

This $30 million project comes at about the same time that the Michigan Department of Transportation approached the Pittsfield Township Board of Trustees at the January 27 meeting, to explain their $80 million plan
to improve both Michigan Avenue and US23, from Ellsworth Road to Stoney Creek Road.

Image Credit: Michigan Department of Transportation.

“This particular change has been in the works for the last few years. We did do a study of the corridor back in the early 2000s, and this is the first section of that recommended corridor improvement that we’re able to tackle with the limited funding that we have at the state level,” Kari Martin, a regional planner for M-Dot, told the Sun Times News in an interview by phone.

M-Dot is aiming to increase the number of lanes, add turning lanes on Michigan Avenue, improve pedestrian safety and add a loop ramp system to the freeway to make transferring between US23 and I-94 easier and safer.

Image Credit: Michigan Department of Transportation.

M-Dot is also planning on completely replacing the Michigan Avenue bridge over US23, while simultaneously expanding and rearranging the on and off ramps. Traffic lights at the on and off ramps will be removed, and the northbound on ramp will be redesigned. The intersection of Platt and Textile Roads will be reconfigured to improve traffic flow. They are also planning on adding a central turning lane to Michigan Avenue, rather than just the four lanes that currently characterize the avenue.

Image Credit: Michigan Department of Transportation.

There will be a ten foot wide pedestrian section on the new bridge. Improving non-motorized transportation opportunities has been a priority for Pittsfield Township for years now, and this comes on the heels of several connections made to the Border to Border trail, as well as other destinations. That being said, part of the trail system in this area will have to be closed temporarily to allow construction to take place.

M-Dot is also planning to replace the surface of the Bernis Road, Willis Road and Stoney Creek Road bridges, improve overall water drainage and add “weave merge lanes on US23 between US12 and I-94.” These are basically separated lanes, like the ones at the interchange between US23 and I94, which are intended to improve safety between cars staying on the highway and cars getting on and off. The surface of the freeway itself will also be rehabilitated.

Image Credit: Michigan Department of Transportation.

Road construction is not planned to start until late 2022 and will end sometime in 2023. Martin said that these improvements to safety and traffic flow should reduce congestion and reduce carbon emissions, since cars using this part of Pittsfield Township will spend less time idling, stopping and starting.

Pittsfield Township will be seeking funding from the state for its sewage project, but won’t be spending a cent on the improvements planed for US23 and its surroundings. Lansing has already given $30 million to Pittsfield Township for the Michigan Avenue project as the January 27 meeting of the Board of Trustees. Martin said that 80 percent of the $80 million project will be funded by the federal government and 20 percent will come from the State of Michigan.

Image Credit: Michigan Department of Transportation.

Both of these projects will be years long, multi-million dollar efforts. By doing both of them at once, Pittsfield Township is attempting to be efficient in its man hours, its spending of taxpayers’ dollars, and is trying to minimize any potential inconveniencing its residents.

Lyon said at last January that he is hoping to do the sewer work "in concert" with the road works, because it would be easier to do both massive undertakings at once.

When asked about how Pittsfield Township’s plans to rearrange its sewage system will affect M-Dots plans, Martin said they were “still having conversations.”

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