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Published: Tuesday, 2/23/2010

Wheeling project to start soon to fix longtime Oregon bottleneck

BLADE STAFF

More than a decade in the making, relief is near for drivers on one of the most traffic-clogged streets in Oregon.

Construction is expected to start this spring to widen Wheeling Street from Navarre Avenue - the Wheeling-Navarre intersection is among the busiest in Oregon - south to Brown Road.

"I believe it will allow the city to breathe a little better and traffic to flow," Mayor Mike Seferian said.

The road connects I-280, and two state routes - Navarre, which is State Rt. 2, and Woodville Road, which is State Rt. 51 - and serves Mercy St. Charles and Bay Park Community hospitals and an Oregon fire station, said Paul Roman, the city's director of public service and acting administrator.

Once the $10 million project is complete in summer, 2011, Wheeling will be five lanes - two lanes in each direction for through traffic and a turn lane - tapering to three lanes from Pickle to Brown roads.

The biggest change will be to the Wheeling bridge over I-280, which will be six lanes - four lanes in each direction for through traffic and a turn lane for each direction.

Wheeling now is two lanes south of I-280. The street is four lanes just south of Navarre, but a short distance later narrows to two lanes and creates the ongoing clog in the artery.

"The bridge is a bottleneck for traffic," Mr. Roman said. "The interchange is very inefficient. Anybody who travels that direction will realize there's usually a long line of cars at those lights."

For westbound drivers on Navarre, the turn lane to southbound Wheeling, traffic can back up 10 vehicles or more, said Kent Meyers, director of facility services for Mercy Health Partners, which operates Mercy St. Charles at the southeast corner of Navarre and Wheeling.

"That makes it very difficult for emergency vehicles to get into St. Charles during peak hours," Mr. Meyers said.

In 1999, ProMedica Health System was making plans to build a facility on Brown Road near Wheeling. With the prospect of another hospital and increased traffic on the I-280 overpass, Oregon applied for state construction funds through the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments.

The facility opened in November, 2001, as Bay Park Community Hospital.

For Wheeling, no extraordinary delays followed, just steps that took a decade: traffic studies to document inefficiencies; federal approval for changes to an interstate, which took 2 1/2 years alone; project design, and property acquisition.

The project also qualified for $1.5 million federal stimulus money. "They asked for shovel-ready projects," Mr. Roman said. "This is one that was applicable."

Construction costs are projected to be $8.9 million, although construction inspection likely will bring that total to about $10 million, Mr. Roman said.

Federal stimulus money will be applied to whatever the bid total turns out to be. The Ohio Department of Transportation will pay 75 percent of the remainder and Oregon 25 percent, an estimated $2.1 million, Mr. Roman said.

Drivers on Wheeling are "going to find a much more efficient interchange at Wheeling and 280," Mr. Roman said. "You'll find people preferring to go that route, because it's simpler. It definitely could spur some economic development."



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