Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Overhaul plan for I-75 allays some concerns

Neighborhood impact negligible in local ODOT project

Fred Saunders came out to the Ohio Department of Transportation’s meeting Tuesday evening about its plan to rebuild I-75 between South Avenue and Dorr Street thinking his home might be in jeopardy.

His review of planning maps on exhibit in a conference room at the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments quickly allayed that fear.

While ODOT proposes noise walls in several spots through the work zone and may need several small strips of land near the freeway to realign ramps at the Downtown/​Anthony Wayne Trail interchange, no home condemnations are planned.

“The good thing with the project is there are no total takes,” said Michael Stormer, ODOT’s district planning engineer in Bowling Green. “It will have minimal impact outside the existing right-of-way.”

While several neighbors said they’d be perfectly happy to be bought out, Mr. Saunders was glad to learn the Vinton Street house he has called home for 68 years will stay.

“I’m glad to see that map ain’t got my house in there for anything. I feel better now,” Mr. Saunders said. “I like what I see here for other people besides me,” he added. “It’s good for everybody.”

“I wanted to know exactly where it was going,” LaDonna Piekarzewski, another Vinton resident, said to explain her interest in the meeting. Decades ago, she said, a proposal suggested realigning the Trail closer to her home, and several neighborhood residents received letters from ODOT related to the current project between South and Dorr.

ODOT’s tentative plan for that piece of I-75 — part of a broader campaign to rebuild I-75 between I-280 and Glenwood Road in Rossford during the rest of this decade — features widening a four-lane section between the Trail and Indiana Avenue to six lanes and rebuilding two left-hand entrance ramps at the Trail interchange so they enter the freeway on the right.

But some work it doesn’t include was also a popular subject among the meeting’s modest turnout: improvements to the tricky South Avenue entrance to southbound I-75.

“You just look one way and close your eyes and hope like hell you make it,” Mark Oliver, a Segur Avenue resident, said of his strategy for that ramp, which merges directly into the freeway’s right lane without significant acceleration space.

“When people on South [Avenue] want to come out, they just come out,” said Mr. Saunders, who prefers the Erie Street entrance instead.

Mr. Stormer said ODOT will address not only the South entrance, but also the deficient Miami Street entrance ramps to northbound I-75, during DiSalle Bridge reconstruction tentatively scheduled to start in 2017.

That $200 million project’s preliminary plans will be unveiled at a similar open-house meeting next month for which Mr. Stormer said a date and location remain to be set.

The $116 million project between Dorr and South is penciled in for a 2016 start, but neither that phase nor the phase between South and Glenwood, including the DiSalle Bridge, has construction money allocated.

An issue that attracted little public attention Tuesday evening was a project alternative to close the 14th Street entrance to northbound I-75 and replace it with a new ramp off the outbound Trail just south of downtown.

That would establish Michigan Street to the Trail as downtown Toledo’s main route to both directions of I-75, instead of only to the southbound lanes.

But while that might make I-75 easier to find for occasional visitors to the downtown area, Warren Henry, the metropolitan council’s transportation director, said shifting rush-hour traffic from 14th onto Michigan could be a big drawback.

Overall, though, Mr. Henry said ODOT’s I-75 plans should be beneficial.

“As far as traffic flow, it’s an improvement, no question,” he said. “We’ve needed to have three lanes north and south on I-75 through the region for many years.”

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

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