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Residents offer input to smooth traffic flow

If anyone disputes the need for a second lane on each of two single-lane ramps at the I-75/I-475 interchange near central Toledo, he didn't make himself known during a meeting on the subject last night.

But changes to other nearby interchanges that the Ohio Department of Transportation says would be necessary to add those lanes generated extended discussion among the two dozen or so who attended the meeting at the Blessed Sacrament Community Center in West Toledo.

Residents wanted to know, in particular, how city streets could handle additional traffic if interchanges north and west of the busy junction are combined or eliminated.

“I'm concerned about the ripple effect in the neighborhood,” said Elaine Moebius, who lives off Hillcrest Avenue and cited Douglas Road as one street that could be particularly hard-hit by interchange closings.

Richard Martinko, ODOT's deputy director from its district office in Bowling Green, said project planning would take into consideration the effect on surface streets and that the city would become eligible for federal funds to address any problems the freeway project might create.

But he and representatives of HNTB Ohio, Inc., said if anything is to be done about the congested single-lane ramps - eastbound I-475 to northbound I-75 and southbound I-75 to westbound I-475 - federal engineering standards have to be considered too.

A strict reading of those standards would require ODOT to eliminate all I-475 ramps east of the Douglas Road interchange and all I-75 ramps between I-475 and Phillips Avenue if the freeway junction is modified.

Todd Willis, the project manager for HNTB, said no one is proposing such a drastic measure, but the project also “has to be approvable” - federal standards can be bent only so far.

Bending-the-rules alternatives that HNTB and ODOT presented to the meeting included:

  • On I-475, relocating the current Central Avenue/Jackman Road ramps to the west, either as a stand-alone Central/Monroe Street interchange between Upton and Westland avenues or a linked interchange with the Douglas Road ramps.

  • On I-75, eliminating the Jeep/Willys parkways and Phillips interchanges and creating a full interchange at Berdan Avenue.

  • On I-75, reconfiguring the Jeep/Willys parkways interchange and eliminating the Berdan ramps but keeping Phillips as it is.

    During roundtable discussions after the ODOT/HNTB presentation, residents seemed to favor the linked Central/Monroe and Douglas interchange layout for I-475, which would require less property condemnation. Opinions were more mixed as to what to do with I-75's interchanges, but no one questioned that change is needed.

    “I've been caught in all this traffic. It's a problem,” Ms. Moebius said.

    ODOT considers modernizing the I-75/I-475 interchange to be the Toledo freeway system's most critical need.

    Even with priority planning, however, Mr. Martinko said, any construction is unlikely to begin before 2008 at the soonest and even then would only involve a portion of the proposed changes, which could end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Comments from last night's meeting will be reviewed by a project planning task force, convened by ODOT and the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments and comprising city, county, and federal officials, and representatives of the Toledo Public Schools, University of Toledo, DaimlerChrysler, Toledo Hospital, and various neighborhood groups.

    At the next scheduled public meeting March 4, Mr. Martinko said, ODOT will present its preferred alternative for the I-75/I-475 interchange for public comment. Barring overwhelming objections to its selection, the department will submit its report to the Federal Highway Administration in mid-April, starting a federal review that usually takes at least six months.

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