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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2005

Few people hear ODOT's plans for I-280 closure

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Any public worry about how closing I-280 for seven months later this year to build a bridge over the Maumee River will affect local traffic apparently wasn't strong enough to generate a big turnout at an ODOT hearing last night to explain the pending detour.

Ohio Department of Transportation project managers and state and city officials easily outnumbered the half dozen or so citizens who came to hear about the alternative plan that was developed after a crane accident last year dashed the notion of keeping I-280 open with work going on overhead.

Instead, I-280 will be shut down for seven months between Greenbelt Parkway and Summit Street. For part of that time, it also will be blocked within the Front Street interchange in East Toledo. ODOT estimates the closings will start in early June.

Through traffic is to be detoured via I-75 and State Rt. 795. But at the urging of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and local business interests, ODOT and the city of Toledo agreed to route local trucks between I-75 and East Toledo or Oregon via Miami and Front streets.

Certain empty trucks will be advised to take I-280 to Greenbelt, then use local streets to get back to the Craig Memorial Bridge, which will remain open throughout the work. But John Loftus, a special assistant to Mayor Jack Ford, warned last night that if too many vehicles go that way, it will be closed.

Mike Hitch, a new-vehicle salesman at Dunn Chevrolet-Oldsmobile on Navarre Avenue in Oregon, urged project planners to consider erecting a temporary traffic signal at Miami and Navarre to help motorists on Navarre make left turns onto Miami toward I-75 during the work.

"It's difficult to turn left there now," he said.

"We will be monitoring everything along the route," but it is too early to know if a temporary light will be needed, responded Gary Stookey, a senior engineer for the city.

Mr. Hitch also suggested that two-way traffic be maintained on I-280 through the Front interchange during several periods when state officials said only one half of the roadway will need to be closed there for overhead construction. Mike Gramza, ODOT's district traffic administrator, promised to study that possibility.

But in response to an audience suggestion that I-280 closings be confined to weekends, Mr. Gramza said doing so would significantly lengthen the completion time for the project, and that safety precludes doing heavy construction on the bridge during nighttime hours.

"The contractor will be working six days a week," the ODOT official said. "There may be times when he goes to seven, though after a while that becomes less efficient when the workers have been out there day after day."

ODOT's original plan for the I-280 bridge project was to keep the freeway open except on scattered overnights and weekends while a pair of self-launching gantry truss cranes were used to assemble the structure overhead.

But after a crane collapse on Feb. 16, 2004 killed four workers, injured four others, and sent wreckage into one of the freeway's northbound lanes, state officials decided allowing traffic to flow below an active work site was unwise.

A second crane incident, on Oct. 23, prompted ODOT to order the remaining self-launching crane removed from use. Fru-Con has since received state consent to return it to service but without the self-launching system, which was in operation during both incidents. No one was hurt in the second incident.

Fru-Con has since acquired two other pieces of equipment with which it plans to complete the bridge construction, along with the modified self-launching truss. One of the two is another gantry truss crane previously used on a bridge project in southeast Asia. The other is an "underslung truss" - essentially a large basket hung between piers that will hold precast bridge segments in place until each span is assembled and then epoxied and cabled together.

A second meeting similar to the one held last night is scheduled for tomorrow evening at St. Charles Mercy Hospital in Oregon. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m., with the ODOT presentation scheduled to start at 7.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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