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Published: Thursday, 6/12/2003

New project to compound East Toledo traffic delays

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Navigating East Toledo, which is complicated by two major bridge projects, is about to get even trickier.

Beginning Monday, a major reconstruction project will restrict Miami Street north of Fassett Street to northbound traffic only, subjecting motorists to delays caused by construction equipment and workers.

The project, for which George Gradel Co. of Toledo has a $2,031,090 city contract, is scheduled to have four 50-day phases, which puts its completion near Christmas.

During the first two phases, the stretch between Fassett and Navarre Avenue will be rebuilt; the remaining two phases will cover Miami from Navarre to First Street, and First from there to Oak Street.

“I hope people will be patient with us,” said Earl Wilkinson, a senior engineer with the city's Division of Engineering Services. “This is definitely a job that will improve that area, but it does take time to build.”

The most likely event to cause project-related impatience will be the Huntington Tall Ships Festival July 16-20, when about 20,000 spectators and tour-seekers are expected to head downtown each day.

Crossing the Maumee River from downtown to reach International Park, where most of the ships will dock during the festival, is impeded by reconstruction of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge and I-280 work associated with that highway's new river span.

Restricting Miami affects the most direct route to the park from I-75, and leaves an Anthony Wayne Bridge/Oak Street route as the only cross-river access not affected by construction.

Actual work on Miami will be halted from July 17-20, Mr. Wilkinson said, so the one-way traffic will be able to get through the work zone without being delayed by flagmen. But traffic leaving the festival, and other southbound motorists who might use Miami, will have to use the detour route of Oak and Fassett.

Having only one-way traffic on Miami “is going to create some congestion, to say the least,” said Kelly Rivera, the tall ships festival's coordinator.

An expected high volume of private boats sightseeing on the Maumee during the festival will compound the problem, she said, because the King bridge will need to open more frequently.

Recent rapid progress on the King project probably isn't enough to get all lanes temporarily reopened for the festival, said Dale Rupert, a senior bridge engineer with the city's Division of Streets, Bridges, and Harbor.

The opportunity to reopen all lanes would occur if the eastbound lanes' ongoing reconstruction were finished before the festival, in which case work on the westbound side could be delayed until after the event.

But that changeover probably won't occur until the end of July, Mr. Rupert said.

“I wish we could do more - I really do,” he said. “It's not the best of timing. We're moving along, but we won't be ready to switch over by that time.”

The Miami project will include pavement reconstruction, widening, and straightening of a short, but troublesome S curve at a former railroad crossing just south of Navarre.

Between Navarre and Fassett, a center left-turn lane will be added except at the bridge over the Norfolk Southern railroad. North of Navarre, no lanes will be added, but the existing lanes will be widened.

Mr. Wilkinson conceded that rough weather in the fall could thwart the project's completion during the current construction season, but said unusually nice weather could help it get done early.

“Anything's conceivable with the weather,” he said.



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