Fifteen more miles of the Ohio Turnpike soon will have three lanes open to traffic in both directions.
Construction associated with the turnpike's 160-mile widening program is scheduled to end by Thanksgiving on a 4.8-mile section east of Elmore; a 9.3-mile stretch near Vermilion, and one mile through and including the Sandusky River bridge. Turnpike spokeswoman Lauren Bakos said the projects are all on time.
Other phases of the turnpike modernization campaign, now nearing the end of its fifth construction season, will continue to cause travel headaches, and the Ohio Turnpike Commission may award contracts today to replace two major crossroad overpasses in Wood County.
The biggest of the ongoing problems is the reconstruction and widening of the turnpike's bridges over I-77 near Brecksville, O., which restricts traffic to a single lane each way. Traffic backups several miles long have been common during peak travel periods since the work zone was set up after Labor Day.
While turnpike contractors have widened other bridges simply by adding lanes in the median, Ms. Bakos said, the Ohio Department of Transportation is requiring the I-77 overpasses to be raised to improve their overhead clearance.
Consequently, the bridges there are to be replaced with three-lane structures rather than having lanes adding to the existing bridges.
Completion of the widening segments near Vermilion, Elmore, and the Sandusky River bridge will create a 70-mile stretch of turnpike over which widening work will have been completed. The next nine miles to the west of Elmore are to be widened next year under a $23.2 million contract the turnpike commission awarded in September to Miller Brothers Construction, Inc., of Archbold. Single-lane construction zones are likely next spring when large-scale work begins on that segment.
When the widening is completed in 2004, the third lane will extend from the I-80/I-76 interchange near Youngstown to U.S. 20 (Reynolds Road) in southwest Toledo.
Besides widening the toll road, the turnpike has had to replace overhead bridges with twin sets of piers in the median.
During its 10 a.m. meeting today at its Berea, O., administration building, the turnpike commission is scheduled to review bids for contracts to replace the single Oregon Road bridge and twin State Rt. 795 bridges over the turnpike in Perrysburg Township.