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ODOT PREPARES FOR I-75 PROJECT BEFORE MEMORIAL DAY

Detour may start as early as next week

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    Temporary ramp work takes place at Central Avenue along I-280. Work has gone faster than anticipated, ODOT says.

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Temporary ramp work takes place at Central Avenue along I-280. Work has gone faster than anticipated, ODOT says.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Enlarge | Buy This Image

A northbound I-75 detour around two bridges over I-280 scheduled for replacement could start as early as the end of next week, an Ohio Department of Transportation official said Monday.

Construction of temporary ramps on I-280 at Central Avenue in North Toledo that are key to the detour route has gone faster than expected, in part because ODOT trucks have been assisting the project contractor’s earth-moving effort, said Todd Audet, the department’s district deputy director in Bowling Green.

While wet weather could delay the ramps’ completion and other work needed to set up the detour route — notably stripe painting — there is “80 percent likelihood of before Memorial Day” and its start has been tentatively set for May 20, Mr. Audet said.

People may question why ODOT would set up the detour right before the busy weekend rather than wait until after the holiday, he said, “but every day we can save on the schedule is that much less we have to take it [the detour] into the winter.

“We’re going to have to handle this for several holidays, so we’re pushing for the 20th to have it in place,” the district deputy director said.

ODOT had planned to rebuild northbound I-75’s two bridges over the ramps that connect southbound I-75 with I-280 one half at a time, while maintaining traffic lanes across them.

But officials announced last month that soil beneath the bridges was so much wetter than expected that retaining walls to support those traffic lanes would need to be redesigned, which would significantly delay the project.

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ODOT opted instead to detour northbound I-75 onto southbound I-280 as far as Central, then use the temporary ramps now under construction to loop detoured traffic over Central’s bridge and onto northbound I-280 back to I-75.

The detour is expected to be in place for about seven months while the two problem bridges are torn down and replaced with wider spans designed to carry both directions of I-75 over the I-280 ramps.

While the detour will be less than two miles long and will keep I-75 traffic segregated from city street traffic — Central already is closed to local traffic at I-280 — the ramps will have 25-mph speed limits because of sharp curves onto and off of Central.

“I’d rather have traffic flowing at 25 mph rather than have everything parked,” Mr. Audet said while acknowledging the slow curves will cause congestion during peak travel times.

ODOT plans to post numerous signs and programmable message boards, he said, and add a traffic camera near Central so its traffic-management center can monitor the situation there.

Officials also plan to urge I-75 motorists approaching Toledo from south of the metro area to use State Rt. 795 and I-280 as an alternative route.

About 47,000 cars and trucks use northbound I-75 through the I-280 junction on an average day. Southbound I-75 will not be affected.

The I-75 bridge replacements are part of a $62.6 million ODOT contract with Kokosing Construction Co. to widen I-75 between Lagrange Street and I-280. State officials have not yet provided an estimate for how much setting up the detour will add to the project’s cost beyond estimating last month it will be several million dollars.

Using the detour is expected to keep the project’s 2017 completion on schedule, which otherwise would have been unlikely, Mr. Audet said.

Besides the temporary ramps at Central, workers have been widening the shoulder on the northbound I-75 exit to southbound I-280 so that it can be set up with two lanes during the detour instead of its normal single lane.

Stripe painting will require lane closings on I-75 and I-280 and will take between 12 and 18 hours to complete, Mr. Audet said.

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

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