Objections to a state proposal to close the Berdan Avenue ramps on I-75 as part of an upcoming modernization of the nearby I-75/I-475 junction dominated discussion at an Ohio Department of Transportation public meeting last night in West Toledo.
Exactly what proportion of the more than 300 people who packed the meeting room at the Toledo Technology Academy - formerly DeVilbiss High School - oppose the ramps' closing was unclear because many left after the ODOT presentation, which was not followed by a public hearing period.
Instead, those with questions or comments were directed to buttonhole state officials or submit comments in writing.
Among the conversations that followed ODOT's explanation of the project, the plans for closing the two ramps at Berdan and directing motorists to use the Willys Parkway or Phillips Avenue interchanges drew the most fire by far.
"If they close [the ramps at] Berdan Avenue, it'll kill the businesses and bring all that traffic into our residential neighborhood," said Janice Moore, who lives on Revere Drive, just north of Hillcrest Avenue, and who questioned why people were not allowed to make public statements in front of their fellow citizens.
Matt Fisher, a Lockwood Avenue resident, said loss of access at Berdan would turn nearby neighborhoods and the business district into "a slum."
"There's going to be nothing there - no business will be able to thrive through that," he said.
The ODOT plan envisions that most traffic using the Berdan ramps - a northbound I-75 exit and a southbound freeway entrance - will use the Willys ramps and Jeep Parkway to reach Berdan. The alternative, project officials said, would be to close the Willys and Phillips Avenue interchanges and build a full interchange at Berdan that would require extensive, expensive bridges over the Ottawa River and railroad tracks.
"Our choices are to keep Berdan and close the others, or close Berdan and keep the others," said Todd Willis, the project manager for state planning consultant HNTB.
The centerpiece of the I-75/I-475 project is widening single-lane ramps leading from eastbound I-475 to northbound I-75 and from southbound I-75 to westbound I-475 to two lanes each while eliminating third lanes from the other two ramps that join the two freeways.
But to modernize the main junction, ODOT also has to make nearby interchanges more compliant with current federal engineering standards than they now are, Mike Stormer, the department's project engineer, explained.
ODOT's plan, under development since 2002, also calls for I-475 ramps that now enter or exit at Jackman Road, Central Avenue, and Upton Avenue to be consolidated into a single interchange west of Upton with a connector road linking Upton and Central.
While that part of the project is expected to require condemning 58 homes and two businesses, it was a relatively minor topic at the meeting.
"This new road is going to go right through my house, but it's going to be a lot safer for everybody," said Brian Walczak, whose home on Georgia Avenue is among those likely to be bought out.
Mr. Willis said land acquisitions are to begin in the fall and continue into 2008.
Construction of the I-475 side of the project is to begin by early 2009, while the I-75 side is set for 2011 and 2012.
The project's total cost is estimated at $117 million.