After more than a decade of planning, five years of building, and the deaths of five area construction workers, the $237 million Veterans Glass City Skyway will become a working part of Toledo s highway network tomorrow.
But today, people, not cars, will have the bridge all to their own.
Dedication ceremonies begin at 10:30 a.m. on the Skyway, followed by a four-mile race/walk at noon, and a motorized parade of veterans groups and labor organizations at 12:30 p.m.
Ohio Department of Transportation officials encourage people to visit the bridge today, which may be the only day it will be open to pedestrians.
Except for participants in the race and bridge walk coordinated by a local running club, the public must board free buses that will take them up onto the Skyway.
You are welcome to walk around on the bridge. Everyone should be walking around and enjoying the view, said David Dysard, ODOT s district deputy director in Bowling Green. But for safety and security reasons, he said, we are asking people to not walk up the ramps onto the bridge.
Buses to the Skyway will begin running at 8 a.m. from a parking lot set up on the former site of the bridge s concrete casting yard on Front Street and from two other lots reserved for disabled people and race/walk participants. The last bridge-bound buses will leave the parking lots at 2 p.m., while the last buses returning people to the lots will leave the bridge at 3 p.m.
Those who live near the bridge, and don t need to drive, will be served by designated stops along some of the bus routes.
Gov. Ted Strickland, U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, and a host of other state and local officials are scheduled to speak, and a tribute will be made to the five union workers killed in accidents during the bridge s construction.
The National Flag Truck, which carries a historical collection of five 45-foot by 90-foot American flags, will be on exhibit during the dedication and will be on display later Saturday at Flags Sales & Repairs, 4849 North Summit St., in Toledo s Point Place neighborhood.
The Point Place exhibit, from 6 to 8 p.m., will be in tribute to the Point Place Business Association, which donated funding for the flag truck to be present during the bridge dedication. The truck has traveled more than 1 million miles to more than 600 ceremonies, and its flags weigh 300 pounds each.
At 9:30 p.m., a special show of the bridge s lighting system will begin.
Over 90 minutes, an entire year s worth of light programs will be shown in order and much faster than they ordinarily will be shown when I-280 traffic is using the bridge. Once the bridge opens, the lights will shift slowly so as to avoid distracting motorists.
Except for opening the Skyway project viewing lot off Consaul Street near Front which has limited parking there are no specific public viewing areas designated for the light show, which will repeat itself until sunrise Sunday. There will be no music or fireworks.
The bridge s opening time tomorrow has not been announced.
ODOT officials say it will depend on how long it takes to remove the stage and other accommodations from today s ceremonies and finish stripe painting and other roadway preparations needed to connect the span with I-280 at either end.
Yesterday, parts of I-280 closed for that preparatory work, which includes barrier reconfiguration in North Toledo to weave northbound traffic temporarily to the left around an area where the old freeway has dodged the bridge s north abutment for several years.
The Craig Memorial Bridge will be open for local traffic southbound until 10 a.m. today and northbound until 4 p.m. today, after which it, too, will be closed until tomorrow.
JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge
The trenched section underneath the new bridge in North Toledo is permanently closed and will be converted into a public park. The Craig bridge will become part of State Rt. 65, and I-280 between Front Street and the bridge s East Toledo abutment will become part of the freeway s Front Street interchange.
A ceremonial ground-breaking for the Skyway was held in May, 2001, while bridge-related I-280 widening was under way, but construction did not begin for more than a year.
After a Feb. 16, 2004, crane collapse killed four ironworkers, work on the bridge s main spans was halted for eight months, then delayed for another eight months after a noninjury crane accident on the day that such work resumed.
The bridge s opening will occur about eight months later than the completion date in Fru-Con Construction Co. s original contract, and nearly 22 months later than an accelerated date to which the contractor and ODOT had agreed before the crane collapse.
The crane accidents also prompted the state to scrap original plans to keep I-280 open while the bridge was built overhead. Instead, the freeway was closed for more than 13 months in 2005 and 2006 while the North Toledo approach viaduct was built.
A fifth worker, a carpenter, died in April when a work platform he was standing on fell to the ground.
That accident, which did not significantly affect the project s schedule, remains under investigation.
Don t be first
State officials say they have no plans to accommodate anyone waiting to become the first to drive across the Skyway once it opens to traffic, and will summon the Ohio Highway Patrol if lines form on freeways leading toward the site.
All of I-280, including Greenbelt ramps that have been closed for several years during construction, will reopen when the bridge opens, but the left lane will be closed in both directions across the bridge and a 45-mph speed limit will be posted until cable work is finished later this year.
The Craig will reopen tomorrow as a local bridge linking Summit and Front streets, including providing access between Summit and the Front interchange on I-280.
For the time being, interchange ramps at Summit and Front will remain in use, but construction is scheduled to begin next year to replace those interchanges with intersections.
The park conversion of vacated land along I-280 will be part of that same project, for which ODOT expects to award a contract late this year. In East Toledo, the park will include a tribute monument to the project s workers, including the five who died during construction.
Contact David Patch at:email@example.com 419-724-6094.