LIMA — Interstate 75 reconstruction is about to begin in earnest, Ohio Department of Transportation District 1 Director Kirk Slusher said Friday.
The $150 million project, a complete reconstruction of Interstate 75 from the Auglaize County line to the state Route 81 interchange, will last another two to three years. In 2012, crews replaced major bridges over the interstate. Planning for the work began in 2005.
In early March, weather pending, construction crews will install concrete barriers on the outside shoulders of the road because they’ll be ripping up the current shoulder and installing two new lanes on either side. Also, crews will close lanes on state Route 309, Slusher said, shifting all traffic to the eastbound lanes and restricting traffic to one lane in either direction. Work around the state Route 81 interchange also will mean dropping down to one lane in either direction.
Slusher spoke Friday at Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce’s Wake, Rattle and Roll. As part of a public relations campaign, Slusher said, people can follow updates on the project through www.ODOTlima75.org, where they can sign up for an email list, see traffic cameras or link to Facebook and Twitter pages.
The work includes new roads, bridges, interchanges, aesthetic changes and safety improvements. The state is removing the center concrete median and replacing it with a grass median. At the moment, a third lane in either direction isn’t warranted, Slusher said, but the grass median will provide enough space for the third lanes in the future. Two sharp curves near McClain and Hanthorn roads will be flattened to improve safety.
The interchanges at state Route 81 and for state routes 117 and 309 will get significant treatment, Slusher said, going from confusing and unsafe traffic patterns to standard diamond interchanges.
Drivers need to prepare for lane closures, especially around 309, as traffic shifts first to the eastbound lanes.
“It’s going to be like that for a good portion of the summer,” Slusher said. “Then we’ll flip to the westbound lanes.”
The contractor is required to have the 309 work and the new lanes built on I-75 for the first phase by Nov. 1, Slusher said.
Noise walls will be added between 117/309 and Reservoir Road. A third lane will be added just on the southbound lane between Fourth Street and 309. The extra lane will allow a driver to go from one interchange to the other without merging lanes, because the two exits are so close together.
Slusher said the ODOT is working with the Allen County Fairgrounds because the venue is hosting several large shows this year, and ODOT will maintain traffic around interchanges at all times.
Slusher said he understands people don’t enjoy construction, especially work of this scale and length, but it will result in major safety and development improvements. ODOT is asking for some patience and good humor. Slusher started by joking during a “top five” reasons to like the projects: The orange barrels honor the Browns and the Bengals.
The contractor has three years to finish the portion from state Route 81 to Fourth Street, but it also receives a $1.5 million bonus if it finishes in two years. In 2014, the contractor also will start the second half of the work, from Fourth Street south to the county line.
Slusher said the contractor, Canton-area firm Beaver Excavating, is buying homes in the area to house employees because of the duration of the project. The company also needs fill dirt and places to take its waste, such as removed pieces of road.