Heavy trucks that normally take I-280 between the Port of Toledo and Michigan might use Front, First, and Miami streets to reach I-75 while the freeway is closed later this year, Toledo city officials told port shipping interests yesterday.
Under a tentative plan, empty trucks headed to the port would be advised to use the Greenbelt Parkway to either Lagrange, Cherry, or Galena streets. They would then return via Summit Street to the I-280 Craig Memorial Bridge during the time that the freeway is closed between Greenbelt and Summit.
But either route's continuing availability, city officials said, will depend on truckers' willingness to limit the routes' use only for local freight.
"The ideal situation is for the trucks that are serving the Toledo market to go this way, while otherwise keeping the traffic flowing through Toledo," Gary Stookey, a senior engineer with the city transportation division, said after the meeting with representatives of several trucking firms, port businesses, and Seaport Director Warren McCrimmon.
The Ohio Department of Transportation plans to close I-280 to through traffic for about seven months, starting in early June, when construction of overhead portions of the Veterans' Glass City Skyway bridge over the Maumee River is expected to resume.
While ODOT's planned detour route, using I-75 and State Rt. 795, is about 10 miles longer for through traffic, it would add 25 miles to a trip between East Toledo or Oregon and Michigan - a burden port interests last month warned could stifle business.
John Loftus, the city's assistant chief operating officer, conceded the alternate route described yesterday sends trucks past two schools but remarked that "we don't have a better option." The peak season for wheat trucks going to the Kraft Foods flour mill on Front Street, he noted, should occur between late June and August, when school is out.
The detour plan will be part of the discussion during a pair of public meetings about the bridge project scheduled for early next month. The Maumee River Crossing Task Force will sponsor the meetings April 5 at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Toledo and April 7 at St. Charles Mercy Hospital in Oregon. Presentations at both meetings will start at 7 p.m.
After the meeting yesterday, Mr. McCrimmon said it would be difficult for the port to complain about the city's alternate proposal "since this is the solution, to a large extent, that we suggested in the first place."
The biggest potential problem was for steel haulers and other large trucks operating under special "Michigan load" permits that allow weights of up to 154,000 pounds. Detour routes for such trucks are severely limited by the ability of bridges in the city to handle their weight. Mr. Loftus noted that a bridge on Miami Street near the Starboard Side condominium project will need to be reinforced this spring to handle the super rigs.
"As far as what they can actually plan on, they've done very well," Yvonne Priest, permit specialist for Northern Steel Transport, said of the detour proposal. "Coming out straight down Front to Miami, I don't see a problem with that."
"It doesn't sound like it's going to be much of a problem for us," agreed John Kreps, terminal manager for Middleport Terminals, a bulk materials depot near the port.
ODOT's original plan for the I-280 bridge project was to assemble the span while keeping the freeway underneath open to traffic.
But it abandoned that concept last year after a construction crane collapsed on the East Toledo side - an accident that killed four workers and injured four others and which sent wreckage into the left lane of northbound I-280. No vehicles were struck, but officials said they no longer felt confident about doing work above live traffic.
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