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Published: Monday, 1/9/2006

ODOT has ideas for a major hub

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

An interchange on I-475 at a new road west of Upton Avenue and elimination of the Berdan Avenue ramps on I-75 are main features of a "preferred alternative" the Ohio Department of Transportation has chosen for rebuilding the I-75/I-475 junction in central Toledo.

Unlike other options state officials considered, the plan does not involve building service roads along I-475 between Upton and Douglas Road.

Nor is a new service road proposed linking Berdan with the Willys Parkway interchange on I-75, as had been proposed in previous versions of the plan. Instead, Jeep Parkway could be realigned to provide a better link between Berdan and Willys than it currently offers, said Mike Ligibel, the planning administrator at ODOT's district office in Bowling Green.

The project's centerpiece is modernizing the I-75/I-475 junction itself, primarily to widen the ramps linking eastbound I-475 to northbound I-75 and southbound I-75 to westbound I-475 to two lanes each, from their current single lanes. But to accomplish that, state officials say they must revamp ramps at nearby interchanges to address safety problems in the area.

As recommended, the plan "provides the best balance between improving the systems interchange [I-75 and I-475] and maintaining local access," Mr. Ligibel said.

ODOT will hold a public meeting about the project Jan. 25 at the DeVilbiss Academic and Technology Center, home of the Toledo Technology Academy, on Upton. A start time for the meeting remains to be announced.

State officials also are studying changes to I-75 from Phillips Avenue north to I-280 and in the area of the Anthony Wayne Trail/Downtown Toledo interchange, but both of those proposals are in preliminary phases. Reconstruction of the I-75/I-475 junction, expected to cost $117 million, has been scheduled to begin by early 2009.

The plan to close the half-interchange at Berdan - a northbound exit and a southbound entrance - irked Gus County, Jr., president of the Five Points Association, who said that area merchants rely on traffic using those ramps and that closing them may also hinder redeveloping vacated parts of DaimlerChrysler's old Jeep assembly plant.

Traffic on I-75 backs up as it waits to enter I-475. An ODOT proposal would widen the ramp. Traffic on I-75 backs up as it waits to enter I-475. An ODOT proposal would widen the ramp.
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"Excessive traffic would be put into the neighborhood on Willys Parkway" if Berdan closes, Mr. County said, arguing that both interchanges should be maintained. "It's about time they start listening to the neighborhoods."

But state officials have insisted all along that either the Willys or Berdan ramps would have to go because they're too close together, and that Willys' access to and from I-475 also is doomed.

Once the main ramps between the two freeways are widened, Mr. Ligibel said, there won't be room or safe distance to preserve I-475 ramps to and from Willys. Motorists instead will have to use surface streets to reach the Central/Upton ramps.

To comply strictly with current Federal Highway Administration design standards, both the Willys and Berdan interchanges would have to be closed, they said, along with all ramps on I-475 between I-75 and Douglas Road.

"It's been an uphill fight all along to convince them that's not the best thing for the community," Mr. Ligibel said. The highway administration has approved an ODOT document assessing the alternatives in which the state insisted on keeping the Willys and Central and Upton avenues interchanges, he said.

Alternatives that ODOT considered included linking the Central/Upton and Douglas Road interchanges on I-475 with a service road, and adding ramps to create a full interchange on I-75 at Berdan but closing the Willys and Phillips Avenue interchanges.

About 60 properties, most of them residential, are to be condemned for the interchange west of Upton that will replace current ramps at Upton, Central, and Jackman Road. The plan avoids taking nearby parkland or the stadium at DeVilbiss, which were vulnerable under alternative proposals.

Mr. Ligibel said state engineers were revising the route of the road that would arc from Upton near Georgia Avenue to Central at Oatis Avenue, so an exact list of the condemnations was not available last week, but they will be in neighborhoods north and south of the freeway west of Upton.

Keeping an interchange near Upton/Central has been deemed vital to ProMedica Health System's $200 million program to upgrade Toledo Hospital. Besides eliminating a dangerous traffic weave at the current Jackman/Central exit, the new Central/Upton interchange would provide a direct route from westbound I-475 to the hospital if built as planned.

The study of I-75 near the Anthony Wayne Trail, for which a lightly attended public meeting was held last month in Toledo's South End, focuses on widening the freeway between the Trail and Indiana Avenue. There are two lanes in either direction.

But to add lanes, Mr. Ligibel said, the Michigan Street/Trail entrance to southbound I-75, which now feeds into the left lane, has to be moved to the other side. That shift, in turn, is complicated by the width of the underpass the southbound Trail uses to go under I-75; under current design standards, Mr. Ligibel said, it's too narrow for more than two lanes, and one of them would be the exit lane.

State officials have directed a consultant working on that study to revisit that element to see what can be done to avoid having just one lane for the southbound Trail, he said.

"We don't want to correct one safety problem and create another," Mr. Ligibel said.

The main issue with widening I-75 between Phillips Avenue and I-280 will be the service roads on either side of the freeway between Lagrange and Stickney avenues, the ODOT planner said. The service road along the northbound lanes has numerous side street intersections and a shopping plaza entrance that may need to be eliminated, he said.

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



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