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Published: Wednesday, 10/29/2003

ODOT to revisit plan for former I-280 land

Native trees, grasses, and wildflowers, and a trail for walkers, cyclists, and skaters are the main elements of an Ohio Department of Transportation plan to make use of land vacated when I-280 soars high above its current pathway in parts of North and East Toledo.

Exactly how much will be done depends on how much money is secured for the land's redevelopment, but the $1 million ODOT has set aside from its budget is enough to do the basics, Jeff Baker, the department's construction manager, said yesterday.

The plan will be the subject of a public meeting tonight in the Waite-Brand Auditorium at the former Riverside Hospital, 1500 North Superior St., starting at 6:30 p.m.

At a similar meeting April 10, ODOT presented various design options for public discussion, and afterward refined its plans based on comments. The purpose of tonight's meeting is to make sure planners didn't overlook anything in developing a final plan to refer to department headquarters for approval, Mr. Baker said. “Are we missing something? Do you have any better ideas?” he asked.

Construction of the $220 million I-280 bridge over the Maumee River is under way. When the new span opens two years from now, most of existing I-280 between Buckeye Basin Greenbelt Parkway and Summit Street will be torn out, and parts of the Front Street interchange in East Toledo will become redundant as well.

A combined 44 acres will be available for re-use, though much of it will have the new bridge towering overhead.

Based on comments at previous public meetings, project planners decided long ago to redevelop the land as parkland, with “passive” recreation predominating on the North Toledo side while part of the East Toledo tract would be set aside for future expansion of Ravine Park ball fields.

While the North Toledo corridor would have some lawn areas, Mr. Baker said, much of it is proposed to be transformed into a “natural” state, with prairie grasses, wildflowers and trees native to northwest Ohio.

The multi-use trail would extend the length of the corridor, with access to the Craig Memorial Bridge planned to link the two sections. Trailhead parking is planned for the East Toledo side, Mr. Baker said, and there will be “entry plazas” at both ends and at an overlook near the YMCA at Riverside.

Along with hearing comments about the land re-use, officials plan to give an update on the bridge project tonight.

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