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Published: Sunday, 11/13/2005

U.S. 20-23 overpass construction speeds to early completion


Construction of the U.S. 20-23 and State Rt. 420 interchange has brought tranquility to the road that runs past Cynthia Lutes's Troy Township home - but at the price of an occasional three-mile detour.

When Pemberville Road closed at U.S. 20-23 in mid-June, state officials said overpass construction at the Wood County intersection would shut it down for as long as a year.

But mild weather since then has put the entire interchange project months ahead of schedule, and project managers now say Pemberville could reopen sometime next month. The concrete deck for its bridge was poured last week.

Favorable weather "has allowed us to advance our schedule dramatically," said Bernie Gates, the project superintendent for contractor E.S. Wagner Co.

"We have had excellent dirt-moving weather."

Even though ramps linking Pemberville with U.S. 20-23 probably won't reopen when Pemberville does, Ms. Lutes was elated to learn that her home won't be on a dead-end road for nearly as long as expected.

"Just being able to go north is going to be wonderful," she said. "It's such a hassle to have the road closed like this."

The $17.4 million project's purpose is to replace the confusing, and thus sometimes dangerous, intersection of Routes 20, 23, and 420 with a freeway-style interchange.

But ramp positioning meant Pemberville either had to close or be given its own bridge over U.S. 20-23. The Ohio Department of Transportation chose the latter, and decided to put in ramps for the side road too.

The bridge for the main interchange is not as far along as the Pemberville bridge but is still ahead of schedule.

Its approach embankments and abutments are complete, and Dennis Charvat, the project engineer for ODOT, said Wagner should be able to keep building it through the winter.

"As long as it's dry and not too terribly cold, they can set the steel beams," he said.

U.S. 20-23 will become a four-lane road through the interchange and, shortly after Thanksgiving, all traffic will be shifted to the future westbound lanes so the eastbound lanes can be built, Mr. Charvat said.

When that shift occurs, traffic turning from westbound U.S. 20-23 to northbound Route 420 will start using the interchange ramp for that movement, he said.

ODOT's contract with Wagner provides for mid-2007 completion, but Mr. Gates said it could be done quite a bit sooner than that.

"If we have average spring weather, we'll be in real good shape to get done by Thanksgiving of next year," he said. "We've got a whole 'nother year we need decent weather for it to get done."

The interchange project is to be followed by four-lane widening of U.S. 20-23 between Pemberville Road and the western limits of Woodville.

Tina Perkins, an ODOT spokesman, said that project will start as planned in 2007 - even if the interchange is finished early - because time is needed to acquire land and move utilities.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.

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