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Sustainable Reconstruction of Miller Road
Mannik and Smith Group Staff Collaboration; Richard Bertz, Coordinator

The “Sustainable Reconstruction of Miller Road” was a significant project that utilized unique techniques. This project integrated enhanced water runoff quality and wildlife habitat, along with providing a more reliable means of transportation. The Construction Innovation Forum selected the project “Rouge Complex Sustainability Project” as a NOVA Award recipient. A key component of this effort was the “Sustainable Reconstruction of Miller Road.” The project is located in Dearborn, Michigan. A public-private partnership was established between Ford Motor Company, the Michigan Department of Transportation, Wayne County and the City of Dearborn for the project.

In 1999, Ford announced plans to redevelop the entire Rouge industrial complex. This $2 billion renovation and expansion program included upgrading of existing plants, replacing and updating the utility and road infrastructure and construction of new facilities at the complex. The redevelopment program included the 1.7 million square foot Dearborn Truck Assembly Plant. The reconstruction and reconfiguration of Miller Road was necessary to support the revised traffic levels and flow patterns created by Ford’s renovation and expansion program, which is providing job retention and job creation.

Ford Motor Company has been in existence for 100 years and the resultant historic heritage created is significant. From 1917 to 1925, Henry Ford built the revolutionary Rouge industrial complex that turned raw materials into complete automobiles at one site. The stored history of the complex is filled with drama, including production of multiple vehicle models such as the Model A, Thunderbird and Mustang and the beginnings of unionization. The pedestrian bridge over Miller Road was the scene of the so-called “Battle of the Overpass” in 1937 between union organizers and security guards. Protection of the historic integrity of Miller Road and the overpass, along with drawing emphasis to the historic nature of the site and newly constructed autoworker memorials, were key project elements.

A new vision for Miller Road was developed and realized through this project. The vision was a safer road that incorporates sustainable environmental elements to enhance surface water runoff quality and wildlife habitat, and that serves as an entry point to the redeveloped Rouge industrial complex. This vision was achieved using civil engineering technology and techniques coupled with out-of-the-box thinking and expert architectural design.

Storm water runoff from roads is a notable source of pollution to our natural waterways. The Miller Road project has a major emphasis on storm water quality enhancement. The project required a paradigm shift for designers who typically develop road designs that keep water as far away from roads as possible. The project resulted in development of a practical storm water management system that provides water quality enhancement while maintaining the structural integrity of the road. The Miller Road project will serve as the benchmark that future road projects are measured against in terms of positive impact on water quality.

A major emphasis for redevelopment was transforming this 20th century industrial icon into a model of 21st century sustainable manufacturing. Ford’s vision of environmental stewardship within the complex was extended to the Miller Road project. Storm water quality swales, indigenous plants, and creation of wildlife habitat are sustainable elements that were incorporated into the design. These environmental features create a sustainable gateway to the new healthy, productive and supportive work environment created by Ford’s sustainable redevelopment.

The Mannik & Smith Group, Inc. (MSG) was the design civil engineer for the project. MSG offices are located in Maumee, Ohio and Dearborn, Monroe, and Lansing, Michigan. Walbridge Aldinger served as the program manager for Ford. Harley Ellis, W.H. Canon, William McDonough + Partners and Arcadis provided architectural services for the project.

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