The Michigan Department of Transportation’s massive bridge project that has closed southbound I-75 south of Detroit since February has passed its midway point, and a project official is cautiously optimistic it could be finished ahead of schedule.

But that’s going to depend on redecking the huge River Rouge bridge’s northbound lanes, replacing the northbound half of the Goddard Road viaduct, and rehabilitation of 13 smaller bridges between Goddard and Sibley roads going as smoothly as has the work completed so far.

“The schedule gives [the contractor] until about this time next year,” Bill Erben, the Michigan Department of Transportation’s project engineer, said last week. “Optimistically, I look to getting done earlier, but they have until the scheduled date to get done.”

For now, at least, northwest Ohio residents who regularly travel to Detroit or beyond for work, sporting events, concerts, and hunting season will need to navigate long detours when they return home. Southbound travel out of Detroit offers a choice between a 52-mile detour using I-96 and I-275 via Livonia, Mich., or shorter but slower — sometimes much slower — alternatives using Fort Street, Jefferson Avenue, or I-94 and Telegraph Road.

Traffic across the Rouge bridge was switched from the regular northbound lanes to the newly rebuilt southbound side Nov. 9. Traffic in the Goddard area had been switched over to rebuilt bridges several weeks before.