SANDUSKY - Work starts Monday on the repair and modernization of the Edison Bridge, a $17.5 million job that will take two years to complete and is among the larger of the new Ohio Department of Transportation projects to begin this year in northwest Ohio.
Officials from ODOT's district office in Bowling Green promised that all lanes on the span that carries State Rt. 2 over Sandusky Bay will be open for the peak weekend travel hours during the summer both this year and next.
Two other big projects in the region already are under way, Joe Rutherford, a department spokesman, noted during a news conference yesterday in Toledo to announce ODOT's 2005 construction program for the state's northwestern corner.
Utility relocation has begun for a $15.9 million widening of State Rt. 53 between the Fremont Bypass and the Ohio Turnpike in Sandusky County, and a $17.7 million project to replace the State Rt. 108 bridge over the Maumee River in Napoleon already is more than a month along - with the old bridge's skeleton demolished by explosives earlier this week.
But projects need not be so expensive to be disruptive.
A bridge rehabilitation project this spring on the west end of the Fremont Bypass will cost just $3.3 million, but require single-lane traffic through the work zone. Eastbound motorists entering the bypass from U.S. 6 and U.S. 20 will be governed by temporary traffic signals.
In Findlay, concrete patching and joint repairs along 4 1/2 miles of I-75 will cost just $800,000, but require nighttime lane closings from July until October between U.S. 68 and Hancock County Road 99.
"We're going to suggest State Rts. 613 and 235 as an alternate route because we do expect backups," said Rhonda Pees, a spokesman at ODOT's district office in Lima. Interchange ramps in the Findlay work zone may be closed for up to two days at a time, she added.
In Toledo, one of the least expensive projects is likely to cause the biggest headaches.
A $462,000 rehabilitation of the Talmadge Road bridge over I-475 will close that structure for 45 days, starting in late summer or early fall, detouring 32,500 vehicles a day. The project will be a major headache for Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park patrons who use the Talmadge entrance to eastbound I-475 after finishing their mall shopping because the closest alternative is the Secor Road entrance in one of Toledo's most congested areas.
"We tried to maintain traffic" on the Talmadge bridge, said Gary Stookey, a senior city of Toledo engineer who noted ODOT consulted with Toledo officials about the bridge closing. Keeping Talmadge open, he said, "would have created more problems and prolonged the project. Sometimes it's just better to have a detour."
"The orange barrels will be inevitable, and it will be an inconvenience," said Ellen Grachek, a Toledo city councilman in whose district the bridge is located. "However, the benefit in the long run will be worth the pain in the short run."
Todd Audet, the deputy director for ODOT's district office in Bowling Green, said that if the Talmadge project only involved replacing the top half of the bridge's deck, it probably could be done with just lane closings, instead of a full-time detour. But because the back, abutment, and wing walls also will be rebuilt, keeping a "usable roadway" open would be extremely difficult, he said.
The exact scheduling for the Talmadge detour remains to be determined. A contract for the project is scheduled to be awarded on June 30, and it probably would be a month after that before work begins, state officials said.
The Edison Bridge project will be the subject of a public meeting tomorrow evening at the Portage Township offices, 2501 East State Rd. in Ottawa County. The session will begin at 7 p.m. with a presentation, followed by a question period.
The project will include replacing the bridge's deck and widening its shoulders to meet current standards. The deck replacement phases will require reducing traffic to one lane each way full-time, but that work will be scheduled to occur only between Labor Day and mid-May during each of the project's two years.
During the rest of the year, ODOT is requiring that both eastbound lanes be open between 8 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Monday, and that both westbound lanes be open between 10 a.m. Friday and 10 p.m. Monday.
The region's biggest project continues to be the I-280 Maumee River Crossing in Toledo, and construction of that $220 million bridge will block through traffic on that freeway for about seven months, starting in late spring.
Statewide, ODOT plans to spend $1.3 billion on major highway maintenance and construction this year, funded in part by a six-cent increase in the state motor fuels tax whose final two-cent phase will take effect July 1.
During the Toledo news conference, Mr. Rutherford noted that this year and next will be relatively light for new project starts in the Toledo area, but planning is under way for several major projects scheduled to start later this decade, including modernization of the I-75/I-475 junction in central Toledo, widening I-475/U.S. 23 in the city's western suburbs, and building the U.S. 24 "Fort to Port" highway between Maumee and Fort Wayne, Ind.
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