By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – Allen Road will remain closed over Ecorse Creek, southwest of Outer Drive, as Wayne County replaces the bridge.
City Administrator Mark Kibby said during the online Sept. 8 city council meeting that the section of road — near Thunderbowl Lanes, west of College Avenue and east of Lada Drive — will be closed at least through the end of the calendar year.
“Some things have come about on that project,” he said. “Alternate routes and detours have been posted, but we are still dealing with heavy traffic going through the neighborhood, and we need to work with Wayne County to get the appropriate road closure signage if that is going to remain a closed project.”
C.E. Raines engineer Souheil Sabak, who represents the city’s interests, said he has been hearing conflicting information from Wayne County’s contractor for the project.
“At the last study session, I reported that the contractor stated that he is leaving the site, but Wayne County stated that is not the case, and the contractor has been directed to continue working,” he said. “Since then, we have tried to get confirmation from the county, in writing, that the contractor has to continue working. We haven’t received that yet.”
On Sept. 8, Sabak said he had scheduled a meeting for Sept. 11 with a representative from the contractor to determine the status of the bridge replacement.
“He said they cannot continue with the project as the county directed them because working around that high voltage cable is very dangerous,” he said. “They are very reluctant to just go ahead and put their bridge sections around it.”
Sabak said there are numerous emails being exchanged about DTE’s involvement.
“I would like to get the story from the contractor as far as what their decision is, and if they plan to continue, or not,” he said. “Meanwhile, we keep pressuring Wayne County, to get an answer from them, if the project is going to continue, or what action they are going to give to the contractor.”
Mayor Gail McLeod said she spoke to a DTE representative the morning of Sept. 8, and she said DTE is aware of the situation and everyone is trying to track down communications so it can be determined “who knew what, when and where.”
“They are very much aware of the need for this to get done quickly, but (DTE) has indicated that there is a lot of work that is involved with anything that is electrical,” she said. “DTE is very much aware of it, they are aware of our situation, and they are aware of the critical need.”
McLeod said once she has gathered adequate information, she can formulate communications to the involved parties, as well as address the gaps in communication.
Sabak said the electrical line at issue is buried, and in a vault, which protects and gives access to cables, which is interfering with the alignment of the new bridge sections.
“There was a directive, as I understand, from Wayne County, for the contractor to demolish the vault and work around it, to get it out of their way, and to work around the cable,” he said. “What they heard from the contractor is that it is a very dangerous situation, because the cable is 24,000 volts, and they are not willing to get anywhere near it.”
Sabak said the issue was overlooked during earlier project planning meetings.
City Councilwoman Pam Sych, who is a civil engineer, expressed disbelief that so many important constraints were overlooked during the initial project planning phase.
“I am having a real hard time picturing that all these ‘Oops – I didn’t know the sanitary line was there’ and ‘Oops – I didn’t know the electric line was there; why can’t we just demolish it,’” she said. “I have never heard of such things, all those years that I worked for Wayne County, so, I am really terribly disappointed in the service that we are receiving from the county.”
Sabak said C.E. Raines was not involved with the project on the city’s behalf until the current problems surfaced.
“As soon as they brought up the sanitary sewer, we had to address it in a very short amount of time, to get it relocated,” he said. “We struggled to get the easements from Thunderbowl, to get it moved, and we looked at other options and put estimates together.”
Sabak said getting easements from Thunderbowl for the sanitary sewer line was the least expensive option for the sanitary line’s relocation.
“We had options as far as pump stations and going around the buildings, and so forth, and they all added up to hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.
Sabak said the complication with the high voltage cable was that the vault which houses it would have been touching a bridge wing wall. A wing wall on a bridge is adjacent to an abutment, and acts as a retaining wall.
Sabak said they need to align the high voltage line to avoid the wing wall, but the vault, the structure which protects the cable, is large enough that it would have to be demolished to accomplish the objective.
Sabak said his concern is that the road should only be closed if the contractor is working on the project, and if no work is being done, the new bridge sections should be moved out of the way to allow for normal traffic flow over the existing bridge.
He said Wayne County will not remove the barricades, because it is adamant that the project will continue. However, the contractor is presenting a scenario, which implies that it is unsafe for the construction to continue.
“So, we need to confirm that story, also,” Sabak said. “We are struggling to get direct information from all parties on what is going on with the project.”
Kibby said another problem is that only one “road closed” sign has been installed at the corner of Allen and Southfield roads, and he would like to see more signs installed to prevent people from entering the northeast-bound section of Allen Road at Southfield Road, and expecting it to take them through to Outer Drive.
“Once you turn the corner, there is no other sign that says ‘road closed ahead,’” Kibby said.
Sabak said he reached out to Wayne County to discuss the signage, which the traffic division felt was already adequate and proper. Sabak said he disagreed, since traffic was being redirected through neighborhood streets, and some people were actually using the Thunderbowl parking lot on their own volition to turn around at the bridge closure.
City Councilman Tony Lalli asked if the bridge could be moved over a few feet to avoid the high voltage line.
McLeod said it is the city’s responsibility to make sure that Wayne County takes responsibility for its project and its problems, and she does not want the city’s residents to suffer because of Wayne County’s inaction. She said she would develop a list of Wayne County phone numbers for residents to call to voice complaints.
“We will get to the bottom of this, and once we do, there will be communications set,” McLeod said. “I have a very low tolerance level for incompetency.”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])