BOWLING GREEN -- For several months, a widening project on North Main Street has been just over the horizon, with preparatory utility pole relocations and waterline work presaging its start.
But by the end of this month, the Ohio Department of Transportation told city leaders and local merchants Friday, the two-year, $7.25 million job to add a center left-turn lane for just over a mile between Dill Street and Newton Road will be under way. The project will restrict North Main traffic to one lane each way plus a turn lane for 10 months or so.
"The biggest impact to traffic is going to occur this October through next summer," Theresa Pollick, ODOT's spokesman at the Bowling Green district office. North Main is part of State Rt. 25.
If previous construction projects elsewhere are a guide, that could mean tough times for restaurants such as the Frisch's Big Boy at North Main and Poe Road, especially since Poe will be reduced to one-way, eastbound traffic for 65 days during the course of construction too.
But Rob Armstrong, a spokesman for franchise owner Bennett Enterprises, said that so far, the project has been "going pretty good" and predicted business will hold up even when the orange barrels multiply.
"Our customers are pretty loyal," he said after the meeting yesterday morning at the ODOT district office. "They'll find their way to our restaurant."
He and Earlene Kilpatrick, director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, said communication has been the key.
"Our merchants have been informed for many months, even years, that this project was going to occur," Ms. Kilpatrick said. "With that kind of communication, you're going to have a smoother start."
What the local business community still needs to see, Mayor John Quinn said, is what sort of attitude the contractor, DiGioia-Suburban Excavating of North Royalton, Ohio, brings to the project.
"We want to get to know the contractor better," the mayor said. "This may be a state project, but whatever the contractor does, the city is perceived to be responsible for it."
"Our best experience has been with contractors that take interest in the merchants," Mr. Armstrong said, adding later, "To date, we're happy with everything we see. It's off to a pretty good start."
No one from DiGioia-Suburban attended the meeting. Dale Calcamuggio, ODOT's project manager, said his counterpart from the contractor had planned to be there but was called away by a death in his family.
Ms. Pollick said the lane restrictions established this month will stay in place through the winter, with all traffic using the western half of the existing roadway while work crews build the drainage system for the widened roadway. The road construction itself will occur in the spring and summer.
The closing of westbound Poe is required to replace a 78-inch storm sewer with a 96-inch elliptical pipe under the roadway, the ODOT spokesman said. The contract specifies that the 65-day closing conclude by July 20 so that it doesn't interfere with the Wood County Fair or National Tractor Pulling Championships, both held later in the summer at the county fairgrounds farther west on Poe.
When traffic is switched over to the eastern half of the roadway, Ms. Pollick said, two lanes will again be available in each direction, but without a center turn lane. The second construction phase will include temporary closings at Dill and Van Camp Road for intersection work.
The project will wrap up in the summer of 2013 with the paving of the final surface for all lanes, lane striping, and other finishing work similar to what now is occurring at the Salisbury-Dussel interchange on I-475/U.S. 23 in Maumee, she said.
Mayor Quinn said he's eager to see the final product, and not just because the new center lane should eliminate a lot of crashes now associated with motorists stopping in North Main's left lanes to turn left.
"There's been drainage problems on that street for years," he noted. "Those flooding problems are going to be alleviated."
Contact David Patch at: email@example.com or 419-724-6094