Telegraph Road

Some landscape projects invove a lot of tearing up and moving around.  This 19th century home is situated a long way from the street.  The original gravel driveway was in a deteriorated state, in large measure due to the fact that it followed the existing contours of the land.  This put parts of the drive under water in a hard rain. A road needs a proper base, and grading such that rain water runs off.    

If you live anywhere near me, I am sure you have been privy to a landscape construction site of staggering proportion.  The demolition and rebuilding of miles worth of Telegraph Road has been going on for months.  Telegraph is a major north-south thoroughfare; I may travel on it 6 times on a busy day.  I am not alone in this-thousands of trucks, cars and buses use it to swiftly get from one place to another.  The heavy volume of traffic and the Michigan winters have taken their toll; no one denies there was a need to rebuild.    

The volume of trucks hauling away old road and hauling in new materials is equally staggering.  Construction vehicles, excavators, bulldozers are cordoned off from from the two lanes still open to traffic by thousands of orange cones.  Crossovers are open one day, and closed the next. It is a massive project, producing a massive disruption to the people who work and shop in the area, and the businesses who rely on the road to provide simple access.  This is a go for broke project that can make a quick trip north  seem like an off-road rally.   

My client’s project seems so benign and modest by comparison, but the concepts are the same.  A road needs engineering.  It needs to be easily maneuverable.  It needs to drain.  It needs compacting to withstand the weight of vehicles in all kinds of weather.  In this case, some 10 inches of base was required to get the drive to drain.  Many hundred of yards of soil were required to bring the ground up around the new drive. 

I have tried to be good natured about being brought to a dead stop time and time again.  I have had more than enough time to put my truck in park, and take photographs. I cannot deny that it has been an interesting process to watch.  The concrete of the old road being pulverized by a massive machine equipped with a battering ram that makes the ground shake.  The numerous giant trucks whose only job all day long is to haul away debris.  The giant concrete drain tiles littering the dirtscape.  The hundreds of people running machines-how does such a huge project get coordinated?  I have tried to view mile after mile of the most God awful mess imaginable as landscape theatre.  It really does seem like what usually zips by me in a few minutes has become a full length feature. This particular day I was stuck at a crossover for at least 4 lights, while some machinery and trucks got moved around. 

The man shoulder deep in a giant trench is communicating with the excavator operator via hand signals-the deafening noise precluded any talk.  The stoppage of traffic behind me starts to stretch out.  Once the truck in front of me backs into his slot, I make my escape at the Quarton Road cross over.   

This man in the pit has nerve if nothing else.  I would not be so comfortable, downhill from a machine of this size.  I love pushing dirt around as much as the next gardener, but is earthwork on an astonishing scale.  The following day, the Quarton Road crossover is closed.  This puts me miles out of my way; I hate having to go south to go north.  Just as I think I am home free, A tree trimming crew has eastbound Quarton closed.  To the north, Lone Pine is closed all the way to Cranbrook Road-a new road, drainage system and bridge is in progress.  I am forced further south.  I am 25 minutes later getting to the job than I planned for.  

I will confess I have traded in my fascination for the project for a fascination with how to avoid it.  Woodward Avenue runs parallel to Telegraph; I have clear sailing all the way north to Orchard Lake Road.  Once I drive under the Phoenix Center in Pontiac, I am but a short distance from the shop. Middlebelt Road runs north and south on the west side of Telegraph.  It is a smaller road, but traffic moves along briskly.  I feel bad for all of the businesses located along Telegraph; the contruction is so extensive and visually confusing. 


The very last straw??  MDOT  closed the exit ramp  from Telegraph onto Orchard Lake to any driver coming north three weeks ago. The detours that would permit my clients to get to me are poorly marked.  The best bet; continue north on Telegraph and go under the Orchard Lake Bridge.  The very next crossover will take you to the southbound exit off Telegraph.  In three weeks, I am just seeing the first moves made to rebuild it.  Can you hear me sigh?   We can help you navigate if you need it; I think we are worth a little travel trouble.


  1. Just reading this post can give one a headache!!! I feel your pain trying to get to the job on time!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Sheila, driving through this is a huge headache. I can never tell how long it would take me to get anywhere. I finally gave up travelling this road altogether-I am in an “Altogether alternate route” mode until this is over. Deborah

  2. Fortunately, my travels have allowed me to stay far…far away from Telegraph. Thanks for the pictures. I can certainly appreciate what I’m missing.

    • Deborah Silver says

      very very funny Lindalou! No kidding about there being nothing to miss. But it’s one of those things I just have to live through. Deborah

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