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Published: Monday, 8/19/2002

Merchants on edge as long bridge closure approaches

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Traffic heads across the Maumee-Perrysburg bridge, at left, which will be replaced by the new span, at right, by Nov. 1. Traffic heads across the Maumee-Perrysburg bridge, at left, which will be replaced by the new span, at right, by Nov. 1.
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Kathy Kear typically receives about three-quarters of her annual business at her Perrysburg shop in September, when school is back in session and vacation season ends.

Next month also is when the Ohio Department of Transportation will close the Maumee-Perrysburg Bridge so the roads at both ends can be shifted to connect to the new span Mosser Construction of Fremont has been building a year or so.

“Oh my gosh, that will majorly hurt my business,” Mrs. Kear said after learning that the direct route from Maumee to her Dancer's Pointe and other Louisiana Avenue businesses will be closed from Sept. 3, the day after Labor Day, through Halloween.

“We plan to have the new bridge fully open to traffic on Nov. 1,” said Joe Rutherford, a spokesman at ODOT's district office in Bowling Green.

About 21,000 vehicles use the bridge every day, which carries U.S. 20 and State Rt. 25 across the Maumee River. The posted detour of State Rt. 25, I-475/U.S. 23, and the Anthony Wayne Trail (U.S. 24) is about six miles long.

During the coming week, single-lane traffic will be required at night on the Perrysburg approach while crews relocate buried fiber-optic cable along the road.

Flag crews will direct traffic.

Merchants in both communities' downtown business districts are concerned about how the bridge detour will affect them.

In Maumee, Lucy Berry, one of several beauticians who cooperatively operate Salon 308 on Conant Street, said the detour “is bound to cause some havoc” because “people don't plan ahead.” But colleague Ellen Armitage said most salon clients have been planning their way around the bridge closing for quite a while.

“They've had warning. They've had time to plan,” Ms. Armitage said. “We need the new bridge.”

Michael Lehmann is more worried because he considers the nearly two months the bridge will be closed enough time for some of his butcher shop's customers to become accustomed to going elsewhere.

“Two months with nobody coming across the bridge, there's a good chance I'll lose some business,” Mr. Lehmann said. “I don't see why it should take two months to hook it up into Conant Street. They should be working around the clock to get that bridge open.”

Mr. Rutherford said it will be up to the contractor to determine how many shifts to assign to the work. Sixty days was how long ODOT's engineers deemed appropriate to set as a maximum, he said. “The contractor has done an admirable job of keeping the project on, and ahead of, schedule. If there is a way to get it done earlier, I'm sure they will find it,” Mr. Rutherford said.

The project is about two months ahead of schedule, he noted, and ODOT has cautioned since before work began that connecting the new bridge to the roads would require a two-month closing. Starting that work in September will improve the likelihood of timely completion because the weather should be better for paving, he said.

Wade Johnson, deputy chief of the Perrysburg Fire Department, said the detour will slow transport times for ambulances taking patients to St. Luke's Hospital in Maumee, and may delay cross-river mutual aid assistance at fires.

“We're anticipating it, we know about it,” the deputy chief said. “There's not a whole lot we can do about it. And the state has been real good about keeping us in the loop on this project.”

Perrysburg city and Northwest Regional Water and Sewage System officials plan to take advantage of the bridge being closed by making some sewer repairs along West Boundary Street nearby.

Jim Bagdonas, the city administrator, said the affected area will be between Indiana Avenue and Front Street. While that is part of the official detour, Mr. Bagdonas said he expects no problems because most through traffic on U.S. 20 will be directed to take I-75 and I-475/U.S. 23 all the way around town. “We specified that it had to be done during their 60-day closure,” he said. “It's going to be a beehive of activity out there.”

While the bridge project officially is not scheduled for completion until Oct. 31, 2003, all major work now is expected to be finished this year. That includes demolition of the existing bridge, which Mr. Rutherford said will occur during the two-month detour.

ODOT plans to blow up the old span, because a mechanical demolition would increase the use of heavy equipment that likely would leak hydraulic fluid and oil into the Maumee. “We have low water now, there are no fish spawning. It's a minimum exposure, environmentally” to explode the bridge and then pick up the debris with a backhoe, Mr. Rutherford said.

The department will minimize publicity about the demolition, he said, because there are few options for setting up a public viewing area and the spectacle will be diminished by protective coverings to keep debris from scattering.



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