SMOOTHER SAILING IN WEST TOLEDO

I-475 work winds down; I-75 next

11/14/2013
BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

With just a few ramps and one closed lane to reopen, plus a few finishing touches next spring, the Ohio Department of Transportation cut the ribbon Wednesday on its now-$71 million I-475 rebuilding and widening project in West Toledo.

But motorists should enjoy the smooth sailing on the main commuting route between downtown and the western suburbs while they can, because another major project will tie up I-75 through Toledo’s heart starting in the spring.

Safety benefits promised as part of the I-475 reconstruction, meanwhile, will be fully realized only after another major reconstruction and widening — that of I-75 between I-475 and I-280 — is completed.

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That three-year project is scheduled to start in 2015.

“We are moving forward post-haste to do good things across the state, and this is one of these good things,” Jerry Wray, the Ohio Department of Transportation’s director, said during an abbreviated speech atop the new ProMedica Parkway bridge before he and other state and local officials snipped a green ribbon signifying the bridge’s opening, which occurred by midafternoon.

Subfreezing cold, augmented by a breeze, prompted both Mr. Wray and Mayor Mike Bell to be succinct at the ceremony.

“It has really been a pleasure to watch this project start from the beginning all the way to the end,” said the mayor, for whom the I-475 reconstruction that began in August, 2010, has been part of the daily commute for most of his four-year term.

Vehicles travel on I-475 near the ProMedica Parkway exit, just a piece of the widening and rebuilding project.
Vehicles travel on I-475 near the ProMedica Parkway exit, just a piece of the widening and rebuilding project.

Project highlights include one lane added in each direction between I-475 and Douglas Road, plus the new ProMedica interchange to replace a hodgepodge of ramps near Central Avenue’s intersections with Jackman Road and Upton Avenue.

Contractor E.S. Wagner originally was to finish work five months ago, but persistent rain during 2011 — which in turn contributed to instability in a slope dug out for a retaining wall — put construction about a year behind schedule.

Those problems were behind at least part of the $7 million cost increase over the project’s original $64 million contract.

Closed through construction were the Monroe Street entrance to eastbound I-475, the North Cove Boulevard entrance to westbound I-475, and the eastbound I-475 exit to Jeep and Willys Parkway.

The two entrances are set to reopen Monday; the exit should reopen Wednesday, ODOT officials said.

One eastbound lane remained closed for sign work expected to end next week, after which the work-zone 50-mph speed limit should be lifted for a 60-mph limit. Unfinished bridge painting and concrete sealing requiring short-term lane closings, mostly at night, will be done in the spring, said Dennis Charvat, an ODOT area engineer.

Todd Audet, district deputy director at ODOT’s Bowling Green office, said traffic safety was the primary reason for the project. But its key safety benefit — relief for traffic backed up to get through the single-lane ramps linking eastbound I-475 to northbound I-75, and southbound I-75 to westbound I-475 — won’t become effective until a final phase of the I-75/‚ÄčI-475 interchange reconstruction is finished in four years.

Jerry Wray, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, greets Toledo Mayor Mike Bell during the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the ProMedica Parkway bridge at I-475 to celebrate the near completion of $71 million in improvements along the much-traveled freeway.
Jerry Wray, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, greets Toledo Mayor Mike Bell during the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the ProMedica Parkway bridge at I-475 to celebrate the near completion of $71 million in improvements along the much-traveled freeway.

That $163 million project, which involves widening I-75 between I-475 and Lagrange Street, is to start in early 2015.

A separate, but adjoining, ODOT project will add a lane on each side of I-75 from Lagrange to I-280 for about $45 million, with work scheduled for 2015-2016.

The most disruptive of the state’s central Toledo freeway projects, however, should be the cheapest. Starting next year and continuing into 2015, an ODOT contractor will rebuild I-75’s four lanes each way between I-475 and about Dorr Street.

That work, state officials said, will close two lanes at a time in each direction, along with varying ramp closings during construction.

The downtown reconstruction is tagged at just $19.5 million — in part because it involves no bridges — but will cut I-75’s capacity in half along a stretch used by more than 100,000 vehicles a day, including many big trucks.

Traffic volume on the freshly rebuilt stretch of I-475 is comparable to I-75, while tailing off to about 85,000 per day near Douglas Road, according to traffic counts from 2010.

The I-75 widening north of I-475 will create a third lane in each direction and include replacing the viaduct that carries I-75 over Berdan and Detroit avenues, the Ottawa River, and a four-track Norfolk Southern railroad line.

Ramps at Berdan Avenue will be closed permanently, as will the Jeep-Willys exit and North Cove entrance on I-475 — two of the three ramps that will reopen next week.

At that project’s conclusion, the two single-lane ramps linking I-75 and I-475 will be restriped to have two lanes each way and a fourth lane will open on eastbound I-475 between the ProMedica exit and I-75.

The eastbound roadway and entrance to northbound I-75 were rebuilt with enough space for that fourth lane, but for now it will just be an extrawide shoulder because northbound I-75 doesn’t have enough lanes to handle another lane of traffic coming from I-475, ODOT officials said.

ODOT plans to promote I-280 to state Rt. 795 as an alternate for through traffic during all the upcoming I-75 projects.

Contact David Patch at: dpatch@theblade.com or 419-724-6094.