What happens when four-lane freeway traffic is stuffed into two lanes for two years? Toledo is about to find out.
Starting early next month, the roughly 80,000 cars and trucks that use I-75 between Dorr Street and the I-475 split in central Toledo will have to squeeze into just two lanes while an Ohio Department of Transportation contractor rebuilds the freeway.
ODOT’s hope is that some of that traffic will find other ways to go — a strategy it plans to promote using Toledo’s new programmable message-board system as well as temporary signs as far away as Carey, Ohio, alerting travelers to the potential for delay.
The project’s prelude may begin as soon as Sunday night, when Kokosing Construction Co. of Fredericktown, Ohio, tentatively will start nighttime repairs to the right lanes and shoulder in both directions through the work zone. Those initial repairs, to be done nightly between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., will prepare those lanes for heavy traffic while the left lanes and median wall are rebuilt.
But once the initial repairs are done, the work zone will become a full-time affair.
“Sometime in early August” — depending on how long the set-up takes — “we’ll push all the traffic to the outside lanes,” said Dennis Charvat, ODOT’s district construction administrator in Bowling Green.
Removing the current pavement, lights, and median wall, rebuilding the drainage system, and starting pavement reconstruction will take the rest of the construction season, Mr. Charvat said.
But because the pavement cross-section on the rebuilt roadway will be different from what it is now, there will be no way to reopen all lanes for winter.
“We didn’t want to close them [the lanes] through the winter — we’ll have nothing going on — but we don’t have a choice. We expect to do the cut-over in May,” the ODOT administrator said.
Kokosing, which is to be paid $31,363,219.95 for its work, then will rebuild the outside lanes and interchange ramps — the latter requiring a series of ramp closings likely to further frustrate downtown commuters. Completion is scheduled for 2016.
Even during this year’s phase, back-ups are likely — especially at entrance ramps, because certain entrances whose lanes now continue on I-75 will be forced to merge during the project.
● I-475 eastbound, which now has two lanes that continue onto southbound I-75. It will narrow to one lane entering I-75 and then merge with other traffic.
● The northbound Anthony Wayne Trail ramp to northbound I-75. It will merge instead of having a continuing lane.
● The 14th Street entrance to northbound I-75. It will merge instead of having a continuing lane.
● The Detroit Avenue entrance to southbound I-75 will be closed for the entire project. Traffic will be detoured to the Lawrence Avenue entrance via Monroe Street.
The Detroit ramp enters I-75 on a curve, “and there’s just no room to give people clear sight distance to accelerate” with the lane closings and resulting congestion, Mr. Charvat said.
And along with the work on I-75, the Oakwood Avenue bridge over the freeway will be re-decked, he said.
The best way for motorists to avoid delay, Mr. Charvat said, will be to use ODOT’s traffic Web site, ohgo.com, in travel planning and then heed the messages on roadside signs.
Signs with travel-time updates for alternative routes using I-280 will be posted north of the Ohio-Michigan border, in Perrysburg, and on northbound U.S. 23 approaching Carey, Mr. Charvat said, although these signs “may not be ready right away” when construction starts.
The sign near Carey will help drivers decide whether to take U.S. 23 and I-280 north through Fostoria instead of the more popular State Rt. 15 to I-75 at Findlay — a choice that also bypasses I-75 widening construction between Findlay and Perrysburg.
In Toledo, Mr. Charvat said, ODOT officials hope local commuters “take a second look at local streets” like Monroe or Bancroft streets to get in and out of downtown.
The transportation department plans to have its service patrol staged near the work zone so any breakdowns or crashes can be cleared as quickly as possible, he said.
But while ODOT also paid for extra police patrols to combat speeding in the recent widening zone on I-475 in West Toledo, for now it has no such plans with I-75.
I-75 construction will extend beyond Central Avenue to I-280 next year, when work starts on a separate ODOT contract to rebuild and widen that section of freeway.
But that three-year project probably will be less disruptive, because a lot of its work will be off the existing roadway, with the current two lanes each way kept open during the busiest times.
Contact David Patch at: email@example.com or 419-724-6094.