Only a blizzard or a downpour can stop work from resuming early tomorrow on a $14.7 million construction project on I-75 that Toledo motorists have dreaded for nearly a year.
Reconstruction of the Berdan-Detroit avenues viaduct along I-75 will restrict traffic to one lane in each direction between I-475 and I-280 until the end of August. But the impact undoubtedly will spread well beyond the freeway and its immediate side streets in northern Toledo.
“I may have to send my guys down Alexis Road to U.S. 23,” said Ron Nietz, the relay manager at Roadway Express, Inc.'s truck terminal on Hagman Road.
But Mr. Nietz and several other local trucking company officials, whose firms will be among those most inconvenienced by the I-75 project, said they understand the need to rebuild the 30-year-old viaduct, which in recent years has become a moonscape of potholes and crumbling concrete.
“We don't like to hear about construction anywhere,'' said Greg Szczublewski, the vice president of operations for Craig Transportation Co. in Perrysburg. “Unfortunately it's part of transportation, and all we can do is deal with it.”
Mr. Szczublewski predicted that I-75 is “going to be a mess.”
Joe Rutherford, a spokesman at the Ohio Department of Transportation's district office in Bowling Green, said weather would be the only reason that the freeway's left lanes won't close as planned at 4 a.m. tomorrow. At the same time, the Willys Parkway entrance to northbound I-75 will close for 180 days, and the Phillips Avenue entrance to southbound I-75 will close for 90 days.
During the first two days or so of work, crossovers in the median will be open and lane stripes will be applied. Sometime Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, the single lane of southbound traffic will begin crossing over onto the northbound side, and reconstruction of the southbound lanes will begin, Mr. Rutherford said.
Toledo-based E.S. Wagner did some preliminary work last fall and over the last few weeks on the project. The contractor erected scaffolding on the Berdan-Detroit structure as well as the nearby Phillips Avenue overpass, repairing concrete bridge piers and setting up an automated traffic advisory system for motorists approaching the area.
The advisory system will collect data from sensors in the work zone to estimate the amount of time required to drive through it. Messages based on that data will be posted on programmable signs located along routes leading to the construction zone.
ODOT has set up an Internet site, www.i75toledo.org, that will display information from the system so motorists can plan their routes before leaving home, Mr. Rutherford said. A low-power radio channel will be in use near the work zone to provide motorists with construction information, although it will not be updated as frequently as those on the automated signs.
Some of the worst traffic delays associated with the project will occur this week, Mr. Rutherford predicted.
“Once the regular traffic adjusts how it gets around, things will settle down a bit,” he said.
During the preliminary work last fall, Mr. Rutherford said, southbound backups were worse than on the northbound side because traffic heading for I-280 was affected when the traffic jam stretched past the I-280/I-75 junction.
But northbound travel could be tricky too, because three lanes of traffic - two from northbound I-75 and one entering from eastbound I-475 - will have to squeeze into single file at Willys Parkway.
The construction “will affect us every day,” said Keith Tuttle, the owner of Motor Carrier Service, a Northwood-based trucking company. While congestion delays are an inconvenience for all motorists, delays of certain truck shipments can force factory production lines to shut down, he said.
“I'm still trying to figure out how I'll get in and out of the city of Toledo,” Mr. Nietz said. “But I'm sure I'm not the only one in that boat.”
Each side of the bridge reconstruction is expected to take about 90 days to complete. If the first phase keeps to that schedule, the changeover could occur close to the Independence Day holiday.
Mr. Rutherford said that if it is possible, all lanes could be kept open for the holiday. But he noted that with July 4 falling on a Wednesday, there is no distinct holiday weekend, which might make it tougher to open the highway.