Motorists traveling on the portion of U.S. 20 that extends northwest from Woodville in Sandusky County should expect some delays for the next two years as the roadway is widened to five lanes.
But village officials said that the temporary headache will be worth it when construction is complete.
The Shelly Co. of Thornville, Ohio, began posting signs and mobilizing equipment last month to start work on a $20.5 million Ohio Department of Transportation contract to widen 5 1/4 miles of U.S. 20 from two lanes to five.
Construction will extend from the State Rt. 420 interchange in Wood County to Pine Street in Woodville, and will initially be concentrated between Pine and the Woodville village limit, ODOT spokesman Andrea Voogd said.
"It's to ease congestion," she said. "It's very heavily traveled by trucks to get to the turnpike, and it will improve safety."
The shoulder will be widened and reinforced on the eastbound side so traffic can be shifted over later for construction of the new westbound lanes.
Now that school is out for Woodmore Elementary School students, work to eliminate the Pine intersection, with the side street becoming a cul-de-sac, should soon begin. It will be finished before the school year begins in August, Ms. Voogd said.
"We're going to make it basically safer," she said. "It was requested by the [Woodmore] Board of Education for the safety of the students there."
Though he acknowledged that there is a lot of controversy surrounding the project, Village Works Administrator Bob Rickard is in favor of it, especially the planned traffic light at U.S. 20 and U.S. 23.
"I think it's going to be a plus," he said. "But a lot of people think four or five lanes will create a lot more traffic into Woodville."
Woodville Police Chief Roy Whitehead also disagrees that additional traffic will travel through the village once the project is complete.
"It's going to get them through town safer instead of bottle-necking down in two lanes," he said.
"We're hoping that with four lanes, we will get a steady flow of traffic through here and it will be safer. With the amount of trucks that come through here on a daily basis, I'm not sure it could get any worse."
So far, contractors have already removed four trees, which will be replaced, and were working on grinding down the stumps last week. They also located the drainage system so it can be moved, Ms. Voogd said.
As the project progresses farther west in the next few months, local roads will be detoured around the construction.
When the new project is finished in fall 2009, U.S. 20 will have at least two lanes in each direction between Route 420 and Bellevue, Ohio, except for single-lane ramps at either end of the Fremont bypass.
The fifth lane in the new section will be for left turns.
Two-way traffic will be maintained on U.S. 20 during construction, but motorists could be delayed by slow-moving or maneuvering construction equipment, and the 55-mph speed limit will be reduced in work areas.
"We will impact traffic very minimally," Ms. Voogd said. "We will maintain two lanes of traffic at all times."
She said that when the project is completed, "it's going to really alleviate the congestion in the area.
There will be some short-term pains for the traveling public, but in the long run, this is a really good project."