A new U.S. 24 between Waterville and Napoleon likely will be a freeway, with no at-grade intersections with money a state committee has tentatively added to the project's budget.
A proposed $20 million funding increase will pay for overpasses at five crossroads, including State Rt. 295, where the Ohio Department of Transportation previously planned to build intersections along the four-lane highway, department spokesman Joe Rutherford said yesterday.
The money is included in the annual "major-new" construction program for which the state's Transportation Review Advisory Council issued a draft report yesterday.
The program, which will be the subject of public hearings before the advisory council adopts a final version in the spring, distributes $717 million statewide.
The bulk of that money is for projects in Dayton and Cleveland, but it includes $14.6 million for the Toledo Freeway Management System - a network of cameras, sensors, and message signs on freeways in and near the city.
The council also recommended that ODOT continue planning for I-75 widening in the Lima area.
Previous years' "major-new" plans budgeted funds for U.S. 24 expressway construction in phases between Waterville and the Indiana border. The Waterville-Napoleon section is scheduled to begin in 2008 and previously was expected to cost $143 million to build.
Along with Route 295, where an interchange is now planned, intersections were planned for Fulton County roads 3 and 4a and at Providence-Neapolis-Swanton and Neowash roads in Lucas County.
One of the recurring remarks made during public hearings about the new U.S. 24 was that local traffic would have a hard time getting across a four-lane expressway at those locations, Mr. Rutherford said. A state consultant's analysis suggested those comments were accurate, he said.
"There wouldn't be enough gaps in the [U.S. 24] traffic to allow the safe movement of crossing traffic at the intersections," the spokesman said.
Randy Hardy, the superintendent of the Anthony Wayne Local school district, said the three intersections planned for Lucas County had worried district residents.
"Those are some very critical intersections," he said yesterday. "Those were big concerns, and I'm glad to see they address those."
But while Whitehouse Fire Chief Daryl McNutt chalked up the overpass plan as a win, he remained disappointed yesterday that Heller Road will be severed by the U.S. 24 project. Heller is the most direct route south from the Whitehouse fire hall to southern Providence Township, and Chief McNutt had appealed to ODOT to keep it open.
"I'm happy that they've decided to put in overpasses instead of grade-level crossings," the chief said. "The grade-level crossings were going to be worse than what we have now."
The objection to closing Heller is all about emergency response time, he said. Going an extra mile west may not seem like much to ODOT, he said, but then it could be another mile back and minutes add up.
The 3.2 miles between overpasses at Route 295 and Neowash will be the longest stretch of the new U.S. 24 with no cross access.
Construction of a four-lane U.S. 24 west of Napoleon is scheduled to begin in 2006 with a short stretch near Defiance, followed in 2007 with major construction between Napoleon and Defiance and between Defiance and the Indiana line.
The latest budget plan provides funding for the Toledo Freeway Management System in fiscal 2011. A similar system for Dayton is budgeted that year at $7.3 million, while one for Akron is expected to cost $14.4 million when it is built starting in 2008.
The systems will allow local officials to monitor traffic conditions from central command centers and issue congestion or detour advisories when needed.
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