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Published: Monday, 12/14/2009

Toledo's Craig Memorial Bridge set to reopen to traffic after long closure

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The spaghetti of ramps that once sprouted from either end of the Craig Memorial Bridge is history, as is the divider that once separated its northbound and southbound traffic.

But while the 53-year-old structure's conversion from part of I-280 - which now soars overhead on the Veterans' Glass City Skyway - to a bridge for local traffic is virtually complete, plenty of work needs to be done after the Craig reopens to traffic tomorrow after a 240-day shutdown.

Most obvious is that while all lanes on the bridge will be open, Summit and Front streets both will remain limited to one lane each way through the construction zone, and the entrance ramp from Front and the Craig to southbound I-280 will use a temporary alignment until after an old bridge carrying part of Front over the old freeway is removed.

Don't plan on using the Front Street exit from northbound I-280 to reach downtown Toledo until Friday morning. Starting Wednesday morning and continuing until no later than 6 a.m. Friday, the northbound exit and southbound entrance will be closed while that old bridge is torn down.

Mike Gramza, the district construction engineer for the Ohio Department of Transportation in Bowling Green, said contractor Posen Construction of Shelby Township, Michigan, "wants to get in there right away and take that down."

Motorists should use either the Navarre Avenue or the Greenbelt Parkway ramps instead during the work.

There's also lots of work to be done to convert the rest of what used to be I-280 and its supporting ramps into public parks, and to reconnect at ground level the north-end streets that once bridged the freeway's trench through the neighborhood.

As of early this month, just $10.1 million of the project's $21.3 million cost had been paid to Posen, indicative that construction was only about half-finished.

"The big things in 2010 are going to be building the bike trail and the city streets," said Mark Mondora, the project engineer for ODOT.

While a bike lane has been created across the Craig bridge - separate from motor traffic and equipped with fiber-glass decking across the steel-grid drawspans - Front to Summit will be "about as far as you can go" by bicycle until the park corridor between Summit and Greenbelt Parkway is completed next year, Mr. Mondora said.

Stubs of the Summit interchange ramps that once joined the Craig just north of the drawspans over the Maumee River shipping channel are all that will remain to indicate it once was part of I-280 and, before that, the south end of the Detroit-Toledo Expressway.

The interchanges at either end of the Craig have been replaced with intersections governed by traffic lights - a three-way intersection at the Summit end and a four-way at Front, where what once was I-280 remains in place as a southbound entrance to, and northbound exit from, the freeway at the skyway's south end.

About 815,000 cubic yards of earth have been spread 20 feet deep along the former I-280 route through North Toledo to fill in the old

I-280 trench.

But for now it's just bare earth that will be sculpted into shapes and landscaped next year as the trail is built and the cross streets crossing the corridor are reattached.

The fill dirt came from both the drilling of foundation shafts for the new I-280 bridge and the excavation of Fifth Third Field in downtown Toledo. It was stockpiled for years in several locations, including inside some of the I-280 ramps at Summit and within the I-280 interchange at Woodville Road.

Most work will be suspended for the winter once the Craig reopens this week. The main exception, Mr. Mondora said, will be demolition of the former outbound lanes of Front and Summit, which have carried two-way traffic through the construction areas during this year's work. Some drainage work also can be done during the winter, he said.

Demolition of the now-active roadways also must be finished where rerouted Front and Summit tie into existing lanes at either end of the project, which is why all four lanes on either street won't open until next year, even though much of the needed pavement has been built.

Once all of the lanes have been connected, Mr. Mondora said, a final layer of pavement will be added to everything to create a unified appearance at completion, along with permanent pavement markings.

The new roadways should be open by midsummer, he said, and reconnection of North Toledo's local streets will be an early part of the 2010 construction phase as well.

On the Maumee River's East Toledo side, vacated land includes the site for a memorial park with a monument to recognize the efforts of hundreds of construction workers whose toil built the $237 million I-280 bridge and to remember five who died in construction accidents.

Mr. Gramza said the Posen contract includes grading the land for the memorial park.

But the park's monument, plantings, and other elements will be built and paid for separately, he said.

On the North Toledo side, the park land will include a small pond to catch and filter storm runoff from both the park and the skyway, serving as a filter for road salt, vehicular fluids, and other contamination from the bridge.

Prairie grasses will be planted around the pond, Mr. Mondora said, but it neither will be fenced off nor stocked with fish. Native vegetation is also to be planted throughout the North Toledo end of the former I-280 landscape.

All construction work is scheduled to be done by Halloween 2010, Mr. Mondora said.

After that, there will be a two-year "establishment period" for landscaping during which plantings must be maintained and, if they die, replaced.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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