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Streamlining Project Delivery on I-696 in Southeast Michigan

I-696 paving in area constrained by bridges and median outside barrier wall
Tetra Tech worked with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to develop innovative solutions to deliver an urban interstate design on a highly accelerated schedule.


MDOT was faced with questions about how to deliver a much-needed pavement improvement project for the I-696 corridor. Prior to the project, news reports of loose concrete damaging vehicles were commonplace due to the condition of the pavement. The I-696 pavement improvement project could not wait. The owner also wanted to maintain some infrastructure to save costs, which required a highly constrained design where fractions of inches were the difference between success and failure. MDOT needed to act.

Tetra Tech’s original design contract called for a two-year service completion date. Meeting the immediate needs of providing a safe corridor for the traveling public and using I-696 as an alternate route for an adjacent interstate project required an accelerated timeframe. The design of a $90 million construction project needed to be completed in about four months.


To meet the required timeframe, Tetra Tech’s team of technical specialists used our Leading with Science® approach to brainstorm ways to provide high-quality deliverables outside the conventional approaches. Tetra Tech proposed the use of the Project PDF concept to simplify plan preparation. The Project PDF captured the entire project in continuous, corridor-long electronic files. We also proposed the use of contractual 3D line strings to make use of electronic information in lieu of conventional displays of plan data. This was the first time these concepts were used on a project of this magnitude in Michigan.


  • Accelerated project design into a four-month timeframe
  • Eliminated the need for hundreds of plan sheets
  • With line strings, provided flexibility for the contractor to use automated machine grading
  • Through 3D modeling, reduced replacement costs by maintaining some infrastructure

The I-696 project won the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Michigan Eminent Conceptor Award for the top project in the state. The project also received the ACEC National Grand Award and was a national finalist for the National Eminent Conceptor Award (in the top 16 projects in the nation).

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