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Perrysburg, Findlay work on I-75 hits final stage

Construction to begin this week on major widening project

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    Construction continues at the intersection of I-75 south and I-475 in Perrysburg on Sept. 15.

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FINDLAY — The final stage of modernizing I-75 between Perrysburg and Findlay — a major widening project that includes updating the junction with U.S. 68/​State Rt. 15 on Findlay’s south side — is scheduled to start this week with nighttime lane closings for shoulder work.

The relatively humble start to the $113.2 million contract is necessary to beef up the freeway’s shoulders so travel lanes can be shifted onto them during construction’s early stages, said Chris Hughes, the Ohio Department of Transportation’s project engineer.

Exactly when that will start, Mr. Hughes said, depends on how soon ODOT can persuade local asphalt-mix plants to open, which in turn depends on the weather.

“It’s a little uncertain right now if the weather is going to cooperate,” Mr. Hughes said Thursday.

The initial work also will include building median crossovers necessary to shift the southbound left lane over to the northbound side for two stretches at either end of the work zone: one between Hancock County Road 99 and a point north of the U.S. 224 interchange, the other from south of the junction with Routes 15/​68 to just beyond Harrison Street.

“We can’t do anything until we get that all in,” Mr. Hughes said.

Ultimately, the project that involves the biggest single contract in the history of ODOT’s Lima district office will widen I-75 from four lanes to six between Road 99 and Harrison and build several new ramps at the junction with Routes 15/​68 and that highway’s nearby interchange with Lima Avenue.

It’s expected to take most of three construction seasons to finish the road work, with all lanes and ramps scheduled to be open in the final layout by Oct. 1, 2019.

ODOT’s contract with Beaver Excavating of Canton requires that two lanes be maintained each way on I-75 between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily, including on weekends.

It also provides for a $10,000-per-day penalty if all I-75 lanes aren’t open by the Oct. 1, 2019, deadline, and $5,000 per day for similar tardiness affecting Routes 15/​68.

Electronic speed-limit signs will be posted through the work zone, with a 55-mph limit when workers are present and 60 at other times.

Rhonda Pees, ODOT’s district spokesman in Lima, said such variable signs were used last year for work on U.S. 23 at U.S. 30 near Upper Sandusky, but this is their first use along an interstate highway in northwest Ohio.

“We were pleased with how well that worked,” she said, calling the variable signs “a good communication tool” to encourage motorists’ compliance with work-zone speed limits.

While three years seems like a long time to do what along most of the work zone will be a widening project, Mr. Hughes said that parts of it are very complicated. Construction plans explain 41 different phases, he said.

“Anything you can imagine, it will look like at some point,” he said.

The two busiest ramps at the I-75 junction with Routes 15 and 68 — the ones used by motorists traveling to or from points north of Findlay — will remain open throughout the project except for brief periods when bridge beams are erected overhead.

The northbound I-75 exit to Routes 15 and 68, however, will be closed for most of the project’s three years, Mr. Hughes said, and the Route 15 and 68 entrance to southbound I-75 will be closed for about 1½ years starting in the middle of 2018.

Other ramps in the construction zone, at the interchanges for State Rt. 12 and for U.S. 224/​Route 15 West, will close for periods of a month or two each, the project engineer said.

That will start with southbound I-75 exit to U.S. 224, which will close for about a month — probably starting in late May or early June — while freeway pavement at its start is rebuilt.

At no time, Mr. Hughes said, will consecutive exits or entrances at those two interchanges be closed at the same time, so one will always be available as a detour for the other.

But while the Route 12 interchange will be the normal detour route for the closed ramps at Routes 15 and 68, he said, motorists sometimes will have to divert farther north, to the U.S. 224 interchange.

That shouldn’t be a heavy volume, he said. While about one third of I-75 traffic through Findlay exits or enters at Routes 15 and 68, fewer than 1,000 vehicles per day use the ramps there that will have extended closings.

“A lot of those people are probably going to [or from] Lima Avenue,” Mr. Hughes said.

As part of the project, the Lima Avenue exit from eastbound Route 15/​68 and the entrance on the westbound side will be rearranged to connect directly with the I-75 portion of the junction.

Lima Avenue itself will be rebuilt with a new alignment and a barbell-shaped dual roundabout at Routes 15 and 68. The street will be closed to through traffic for four to six months in late 2019, but freeway access will be maintained.

The Harrison Avenue bridge over I-75 is the only local bridge to be rebuilt during the project, and that is slated to occur this year.

“The only thing we’re waiting on is railroad approval,” Mr. Hughes said, noting that Harrison’s bridge spans a Norfolk Southern track as well as I-75.

Harrison will be closed for about nine months once that work starts, he said.

Widening of the rest of I-75 between Findlay and Perrysburg from four lanes to six began in 2014 and was mostly finished last year, although some work remains to be done this year at the I-475/​U.S. 23 junction in Perrysburg and south of State Rt. 25 near Cygnet.

Finish work planned between Oil Center and County Road 99 will close one of three lanes at night this week, with a second lane closed at times while temporary pavement markings are applied, ODOT said.

Final paving, requiring additional lane closings, is scheduled throughout April.

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

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