For more than half a century, Toledo s north end has been bisected by what was originally the Detroit-Toledo Expressway today s I-280.
But when the Veterans Glass City Skyway opens overhead, the old freeway will be out of a job, its trench unnecessary.
After about three years of construction, most of it will be converted to a public park, as will be East Toledo land freed up when the current I-280 interchange with Front Street is converted into a four-way intersection involving Front, the Craig Memorial Bridge, and two ramps connecting Front with I-280 to and from the south. The two parks will have a combined 40 acres.
"It s been a long, long time since that trench was dug," said Harold Salverda, a retired assistant director of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments.
"Once upon a time, that neighborhood was a unit, but people were really separated from one side to the other by the trench and the Detroit-Toledo Expressway. I think this is going to do a lot to bring that neighborhood back together," he said.
Besides the immediate impacts the park construction will have on nearby neighborhoods, Mr. Salverda predicted that a future bike lane across the Craig will bring East Toledo and North Toledo closer together.
Reconfiguring the Craig bridge and its approaches for use by local traffic, filling the North Toledo trench, and reconnecting residential streets severed by the old freeway will be the main features of one of two Ohio Department of Transportation Skyway-related contracts still to be awarded after the new bridge s opening.
That contract, budgeted for $25 million, is to begin next year, while ODOT expects to spend $1.5 million later this year on a project to landscape the widened I-280 from either end of the new bridge to I-75 in North Toledo and Navarre Avenue in Oregon.
Terraces for some of the landscaping were built as part of the project s noise-wall contract, but the plantings themselves won t be done until the other construction is finished.
The landscaping will rely heavily on shrubs, flowering trees, conifers, and native grasses, said Jeff Baker, the project construction manager for ODOT.
"We re going to have some attractive landscaping without a lot of maintenance," Mr. Baker said.
While ODOT will pay for the I-280 landscaping, the bill for the park and Craig bridge remodeling is to be divided roughly in thirds among the state, the city of Toledo, and federal funds administered by the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments.
In North Toledo, the park will feature a meandering, two-mile trail flanked by prairie grasses and native trees, along with several small ponds that will be settling pools for bridge run-off. The only expanse of lawn planned for that side of the river will be near the Summit YMCA the former Riverside Hospital.
As the freeway trench is filled in and resculpted, bridges that carry several local streets across it will be removed and the streets reconnected on solid ground.
Earth for the trench conversion will come from a large mound, informally known as Mount Northwood, within the I-280 interchange at Woodville Road. Mount Northwood s dirt came from shafts drilled for the I-280 bridge s pier foundations and from the excavation of Fifth Third Field in downtown Toledo.
The East Toledo side also will feature grassy meadows and trails, though preliminary plans designate some land for future athletic fields. East Toledo also will be the site for the tribute and memorial monument for the bridge project s construction workers.
The Craig, which is to become part of State Rt. 65 and thus remain an ODOT responsibility, will be reconfigured with a bike lane on its downriver side, its median divider eliminated, and intersections at either end instead of interchanges: the four-way corner in East Toledo and a "T" intersection at Summit Street, which itself will be realigned through the area.
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