Ambassador Gateway Project Proceeds

By Aram Kalousdian, Editor | September 28, 2010

The massive fourth phase of the over $230-million Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project is under way in Detroit. It is the largest project in the Michigan Department of Transportation's (MDOT) history. The project includes:

  • The reconstruction of approximately 1-1/2 miles of main line paving on Interstate 75 from Rosa Parks Boulevard to Clark Street
  • 1 mile of main line reconstruction on Interstate 96 from the Interstate 75/Interstate 96 interchange northward to Warren Avenue
  • The reconstruction of 18 ramps and 24 bridges
  • A signature cable-stay pedestrian bridge over Interstate 75 and Interstate 96 connecting East and West Mexicantown. The lighted bridge, the first of its kind in Michigan, will span Interstate 75 at Bagley Avenue, connecting people to the area's attractions including the new Detroit Mexicantown International Welcome Center and Mercado, as well as local businesses throughout Southwest Detroit.
  • 3 miles of retaining wall along the reconstructed freeway

Three phases of the project have been completed, including:

  • Rehabilitation of Fort Street from Clark Street to Rosa Parks Boulevard
  • Reconstruction of the West Grand Boulevard bridges over Interstate 75
  • Reconstruction of the Interstate 96/Interstate 75 southbound service drive and the Interstate 96 off-ramp from Vernor Highway to Michigan Avenue.

All roads are expected to be open to traffic in 2009. Landscaping and cleanup will continue in 2010.

When the project is completed, trucks entering or leaving the Ambassador Bridge Plaza will no longer use city streets. Freeway improvements will provide access to the new Detroit Mexicantown International Welcome Center and Mercado.

"This project includes dedicated ramps for trucks that will keep them separated from main line Interstate 75 and allow traffic to flow more freely through the entire area. This will completely update the entire area," Bob Jones, vice president of Walter Toebe Construction Co., said. Walter Toebe Construction Co., of Wixom, is the prime contractor for the project.

"This area was terribly outdated. This project is going to take care of this area for many years to come."

Walter Toebe Construction is doing all of the structure demolition on the project, and Six-S Inc., of Waterford Township, is removing pavement, doing underground work, dirt work, and paving. Walter Toebe used a Cat 375 with a LaBounty pulverizer, a Cat 235 with a Genesis concrete pulverizer, two Komatsu PC 200s with Allied breakers, and some PC 300s with concrete breakers.

"The biggest challenge was completing the demolition inside of this project where we had active construction going in and around the entire site. I'd say the biggest challenge was coordinating the demolition operations so that it didn't affect the reconstruction around the entire area," Jones said.

"There were a lot of meetings, a lot of planning and a lot of effort that went into making sure that we were demolishing in certain spans and not affecting other operations. It was a bit of an elaborate dance step to pull it all off."

The project has included the removal of 407,984 square yards of pavement, several thousand cubic yards of concrete bridge, and approximately 2,000 tons of scrap structural steel. All of the material is being recycled locally.

Jones said that another challenge is going to be the construction of the new pedestrian bridge. The cable-stay bridge will have a cast-in-place concrete pylon that will rise over 100 feet in the air.

"It will taper on all four sides and lean in two different directions. It's a post-tensioned concrete pylon that will definitely be the most unique challenge on the project," Jones said.

"Engineering-wise, the pedestrian bridge is a lot of work. Survey and construction work for the pedestrian bridge is a challenge. With it being tapered on all four sides and leaning in two different directions, the accuracy in the construction is almost like a Swiss watch. You must take a survey at the same point everyday, because the thermal movements from the sun can move this pylon a lot. The falsework and the forming system that had to be used involved several different engineering companies.

"Aside from the center pylon, there is the post-tensioning aspect of it, which is pretty unique, at least in this application. Then there is the cable-stay portion and the tub girder, which brings about several other challenges. It's going to be a beautiful bridge, no doubt. It will be quite a showpiece for the border crossing."

The project includes approximately 250,000 square yards of different types of reinforced and non-reinforced concrete pavement and less than 600,000 cubic yards of excavation.

Subcontractors on the project include Ace Steel Erection (re-steel installation); Ajax Paving Industries (bituminous work); Atsalis Brothers (painting); Hardman Construction, Inc. (sheeting); Highway Services (permanent signs); INSPEC-SOL (concrete testing); Motor City Electric; Nationwide Fence; P.K. Contracting (pavement striping); POCO (traffic control); and Wess Construction (landscaping).


Project: Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project, phase four

Prime contractor: Walter Toebe Construction Co., of Wixom