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Published: 5/24/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

Traffic woes expected for holiday weekend

Congestion expected on Turnpike, U.S. 23 in Mich.

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Cool, dry, and clear weather is forecast to grace northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan during the Memorial Day weekend, which should be a blessing for travelers stuck in traffic near Ohio Turnpike and U.S. 23 work zones that will remain in place during the holiday.

Many Toledo-area construction zones will be removed for the holiday, according to the two states' transportation departments, but a backup-prone work zone on U.S. 23 just north of the Ohio-Michigan border will be an exception. The Ohio Turnpike, meanwhile, will be down to one lane each way for seven miles just west of the Wauseon interchange for a resurfacing project.

The weekend's good news is for motorists heading east on State Rt. 2. The Ohio Department of Transportation announced Thursday that the Route 2 bridge over Crane Creek, near the Lucas-Ottawa county line, will reopen by noon today.

ODOT's reconstruction of I-475 in West Toledo continues, of course, but that project has proven not to be a big congestion headache most of the time — the bigger issue has proven to be work-zone speeders crashing on the northbound I-75 exit to westbound I-475.

But for those heading up to the Irish Hills or other Michigan getaways for the first time this year, the Michigan Department of Transportation project on U.S. 23 could be a rude surprise.

A state contractor is rebuilding the northbound lanes between the Sterns Road and U.S. 223 interchanges, forcing two-way traffic on the southbound side. Backups already have been an issue during peak travel times, and holiday volume is likely to make that even worse.

Kari Arend, an MDOT spokesman, said the U.S. 23 reconstruction “is taking longer than expected” and officials now hope to have all lanes reopened, along with two closed ramps at the U.S. 223 interchange, in time for the season's first major races at Michigan International Speedway on June 14-16.

“We will see some significant back-ups out there” this weekend, she said.

Travelers headed north from West Toledo and the western suburbs should consider using Summerfield Road or other surface streets to reach U.S. 23 north of the work zone, while I-75 to I-275 is a potential alternate route from the rest of the area.

Although AAA's holiday-travel forecast predicted a slight decline in people going more than 50 miles from home this weekend, the auto club said most of that drop will be in the air-travel sector, which is expected to be 8 percent lower than last year.

Highway travel, always the dominant choice, may rise slightly this weekend, AAA said.

Gasoline prices, which jumped last week in the Toledo area, are nonetheless comparable to levels of a year ago and in some areas have crept down significantly after the spike last Friday.

The Ohio Turnpike historically has scheduled its resurfacing work in the spring and fall to avoid the peak summer driving season, but as in the past that means leaving construction zones up during the Memorial Day weekend. Long backups have often resulted.

Lauren Hakos, a Turnpike spokesman, said Friday the project west of Wauseon is on schedule for reopening by June 28.

Better news for toll-road travelers is that the easternmost service plazas have reopened after being closed for reconstruction. The plazas' Panera Bread restaurants will be open this weekend, although the Dairy Queen Grill and Chill option won't be available for several more weeks.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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