KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Drivers who have become well accustomed to the orange barrels and lane reductions along I-94 in Kalamazoo and Portage can look forward to the end of the project this summer, the Michigan Department of Transportation says.

Spokesman Nick Schirripa said contractors expect to finish the work between Lovers Lane and Sprinkle Road in late July or early August.

The $87 million project that includes the exits at Portage and Kilgore roads started in March 2021 and was originally scheduled to be done by late 2022. Problems ranging from supply chain issues and material availability to the pandemic kept pushing the end date back.

“That delayed everybody’s everything,” Schirripa said. “We had workers’ time lost to COVID-19, to sickness, to illness. We were losing entire crews at a time, entire subcontractors at a time, where we’re taking a month off, three weeks off, when their crews got infected.”

Delays also stemmed from design problems with the T-beam in one of the bridges, holding up progress for a few months.

“That … required going back to the drawing board, coming up with a new design and redesigning the whole bridge with a new beam length,” Schirripa said. “And that takes time. Not only do you have to go through redesign, but we have to order new bridge beams. Those aren’t produced quickly, nor are they shipped quickly.”

Crews still have a combination of rebuilding, paving, sidewalk installation and curb and gutter work to do on the highway, Portage Road and Kilgore Road. But after this, MDOT won’t be considering any more expansions on I-94 anytime soon.

“We don’t really have anything on tap immediately. We’re not redesigning any other structures right now,” Schirripa said.

Focus will shift to a 10-mile stretch in Calhoun County, where repaving and bridge work are already underway. At least eight bridges will be rebuilt to allow for six lanes, which Schirripa said was forward thinking for future projects.

“If it’s rebuilding an interchange, rebuilding a bridge, even if it’s just rebuilding a small section of I-94 … we’re going to build it wide enough to accommodate six (lanes) a little more easily when that has to happen,” Schirripa said.

Because of the way the work on I-94 was done, the reopening will not be piecemeal; rather, will see all the barrels and equipment disappear at once.

“We know it’s been a long time. We know it’s been too long. We’re just as excited as everybody else is to see this project finished,” Schirripa said. “We really appreciate people’s patience with us, with this project taking longer than anticipated. We hope that continues for just a few more months and we’ll be done and out of the way.”